On June 9, 2010, the U.S. Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) ordered each federal Zimmer hip lawsuit centralized in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. This order created the Zimmer hip multidistrict litigation (MDL), No. 2158. The panel assigned District Judge Susan D. Wigenton to oversee the proceedings.
The panel originally transferred 11 cases to the MDL, but since then the caseload has increased significantly. Plaintiffs claim that manufacturer Zimmer failed to provide adequate warnings concerning the risk of Durom Cup hip failure and related side effects like pain, immobility, and the need for revision surgery.
According to a quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, as of November 2012, Zimmer had negotiated $388.2 million in settlements, and will likely spend another $230 million to resolve the remaining claims.
What is multidistrict litigation?
The Zimmer hip multidistrict litigation was created to increase efficiency of pretrial proceedings. Centralizing federal Zimmer hip lawsuits in one court enables both parties to have ready access to documents and testimony, reduces the risk of duplicate discovery, and helps keep judicial rulings consistent.
In an MDL, each case retains its individual nature. If the parties are unable to negotiate settlements, each case will return to the district in which it was filed for trial. This is different from what occurs in a Zimmer class action lawsuit. One plaintiff usually represents a large number of “members” of the class who all share similar complaints about the same product. The class action is seen as one case by the court, and any settlements or jury awards are divided evenly among the members.
What is the current status of the Zimmer hip MDL?
Plaintiffs who have suffered serious injuries because of the Zimmer Durom Cup and who have had to undergo revision surgery are still filing claims in the Zimmer MDL. New Mexico resident Christopher Wilson, for example, filed a Zimmer hip lawsuit in New Mexico that was later transferred to the MDL in New Jersey in the fall of 2012.
Wilson claimed that he was implanted with the device in 2007, and not long afterwards, began to experience persistent pain and other symptoms. Later testing revealed possible loosening of the Durom Cup components, as well as unusually high levels of cobalt in his system. He underwent revision surgery in March 2011 to have the device removed and replaced.
Plaintiffs claim Durom Cup hip failure
When patients file a Zimmer hip lawsuit, they typically claim the device loosened prematurely, causing pain and difficulty walking. Other common allegations of complications include metal contamination, swelling, tissue damage, bone loss, and Durom Cup hip failure.
Approved by the FDA in 2006, the Durom Cup quickly came under scrutiny as orthopedic surgeons observed issues with the implant. A metal-on-metal device, it places a metal ball inside a metal socket, which over time, can increase risk of metal contamination. Tiny shards of cobalt and chromium can be shed into the surrounding tissues of the joint, causing inflammation, tissue necrosis and bone loss.
Surgeons also noted problems with the design of the cup. Instead of being cemented to the bone, it was covered with a unique titanium material that was meant to encourage bony ingrowth into the implant. In 2007, however, Dr. Lawrence Dorr— director of the Dorr Institute for Arthritis Research and Education, 30-year veteran of hip implant surgeries, and former Zimmer consultant—alerted the company to issues he was seeing in his practice.
The surgeon informed Zimmer that the device was failing more frequently than anticipated because it was loosening from the bone. When Zimmer didn’t respond to his initial concerns, he published a public letter to his colleagues at the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons in April 2008, stating, “We do not believe the fixation surface is good on these cups. We stopped using the cup after the first revisions.”
Zimmer hip replacement recall – a temporary suspension of sales
In response to Dr. Dorr’s concerns and the increasing number of patient complaints regarding the Durom Cup, Zimmer temporarily suspended sales of the device in July 2008 to investigate. This temporary suspension has sometimes been referred to as a Zimmer hip replacement recall, but the product was not withdrawn from the market and Zimmer maintained that the implant was safe.
After about a month, the company announced their investigation had revealed no problems with the Durom Cup. Instead, they blamed surgeon error for the high failure rates, and started a new surgical training program in the U.S.
In September 2010, a study from the University of Wisconsin Clinical Science Center found a significantly higher rate of Durom Cup hip failures when compared to the Zimmer Trilogy hip implant. In 2011, the FDA received over 5,000 complaints related to metal-on-metal implants like the Durom Cup. A later study published in 2012 in the Lancet concluded that metal-on-metal hip implants have early failure rates that are two to four times higher than those made with other types of materials.
More Zimmer settlements likely
Soon after the JPML created the Zimmer hip multidistrict litigation, it was announced that many of the plaintiffs had agreed to meet with representatives of Zimmer Inc. to discuss potential settlement agreements. At the time, Zimmer had stated it had set aside nearly $150 million to pay for legal expenses and settle with plaintiffs claiming injuries from the Durom Cup.
Mediation has resulted in many Zimmer hip settlements, but some cases have moved forward with discovery in preparation for trial. Some of these lawsuits are still pending. The first bellwether trial was expected to begin at the end of 2012, but so far, no federal trial has taken place.
Eligibility for a Zimmer hip lawsuit
Patients who were implanted with the Durom Cup and suffered complications requiring revision surgery may be eligible to file a Zimmer hip replacement lawsuit. Product liability lawyers are currently offering free case evaluations to help patients better understand their legal options.
- Zimmer Durom Hip Cup Products Liability Litigation http://www.jpml.uscourts.gov/sites/jpml/files/MDL-2158-Tag-Along_Transfer-01-13.pdf
- Zimmer.com: Questions and answers on hip replacement and metal-on-metal systems http://information.zimmer.com/en/