Many Plaintiffs Still Seek Compensation for Alleged Zimmer Hip Problems
When the Durom cup hip implant was approved by the FDA for sale in the U.S. in 2006, it was widely marketed as an ideal solution for patients who wished to maintain an active lifestyle after hip surgery. Two years later, the device was temporarily pulled off the market. Some of the estimated 13,000 patients who received the controversial all-metal implant have since filed a Zimmer hip lawsuit seeking damages for alleged injuries.
The problems reported by patients in regard to the Durom cup exposed potential flaws not only in the design of all-metal hip implants, but also in the U.S. medical device regulatory system. Because Zimmer was not required to demonstrate the Durom cup’s safety before receiving FDA approval, and because the U.S. lacks a national joint registry to track hip implant failures, critics argue that thousands of patients have been unnecessarily exposed to dangerous devices.
Early warnings ignored
The Durom cup is a socket-shaped single piece of metal designed to fit inside the pelvis and quickly fuse with the patient’s bone, thus giving stability to the new hip joint. Orthopedic surgeons began to notice problems with the Durom cup as early as 2006, and filed adverse event reports with the FDA.
The main problem identified was that the cup failed to bond with the bone as expected. Instead, the cup moved freely inside the socket, grinding against the bone and causing crippling pain. The FDA took no action in response to these complaints and Zimmer continued to market the device.
No Zimmer hip implant recall issued
In 2008, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Larry Dorr, Director of the Dorr Institute for Arthritis Research and Education, issued a memorandum to the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons reporting an unusually high failure rate of Zimmer hips among his patients. Out of 165 implants, fourteen required revision surgeries within two years. Dr. Dorr was alarmed by these early results, but Zimmer maintained that poor surgical technique, not a design flaw, was to blame.
The company later suspended sales of the device, a move just short of a full Zimmer hip implant recall, while it revised its instructions for use of the component.
Zimmer hip implant lawsuit MDL proceeding
The Durom cup multidistrict litigation (MDL) was established in June of 2010 in a New Jersey federal court. Overseen by Judge Madeline Cox Arleo, the first bellwether cases in the MDL are expected to begin later this year. Even before the initial trials, however, plaintiffs’ attorneys and Zimmer have been actively settling the claims of injured patients.
As of 2010, the company had reportedly set aside $145 million in a settlement fund. For the 75 cases currently pending in the MDL, a key factual question will likely be whether poor surgical technique or design flaws are to blame for the high failure rate of Zimmer implants. Expert testimony from specialists like Dr. Dorr, who told the New York Times that the Durom cup was a “bad design,” will likely be important for plaintiffs seeking compensation for Zimmer hip complications.