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Metal Hip Replacement Lawsuits

Medical device manufacturers designed hip implants to replace the ball-and-socket hip joint. These implants consist of an artificial ball that fits inside of a cup. In metal-on-metal implants, the ball and cup are metal. Manufacturers often use a combination of chromium and cobalt.

Companies design metal hip replacements to be more durable than their ceramic and plastic counterparts. Unfortunately, researchers have linked them to several serious health complications. A common problem with metal hips is that friction between the hips' metal components can release metallic debris into the body. This condition, called metallosis, can cause swelling, severe pain, and blood poisoning.

These complications have led several metal hip implant manufacturers to withdraw their devices from the market. For example, Johnson & Johnson's DePuy Orthopaedics recalled its ASR hip replacements in 2010.

Here, we will focus on metal hip replacement lawsuits. Specifically, we will discuss the significant issues patients have experienced with these medical devices. We will also describe the major lawsuits that plaintiffs have filed against metal hip replacement manufacturers.

Metal Hip Replacements and Serious Health Issues

One of the biggest problems with hip replacement devices is that the implant loosens, causing harm to the soft tissue and bones surrounding the implant. When the metal components rub against each other, they release toxins into the body, which can lead to blood poisoning.

The most common issues with defective hip implants include:

  • Dislocation: The implant becomes loose and dislocates from the body
  • Bone loss: This is from friction between the metal parts
  • Fracture: Bones surrounding the implant may become weak and can fracture
  • Metallosis: Friction from the metal components causes metal poisoning
  • Necrosis: This happens when the tissue and soft bone near the implant decay
  • Osteolysis: This is severe pain resulting from bones becoming thin and worn down

For many of these problems, the only option is revision surgery. Unfortunately, many surgeons replace the defective medical device with another metal hip replacement product.

Patients who have sued companies like Johnson & Johnson, Smith & Nephew, and Zimmer Biomet argue that the company didn't conduct enough testing for these issues. Also, plaintiffs said that the manufacturers failed to warn doctors and patients of these problems when they became aware of them.

FDA and Metal-on-Metal Hip Replacement Devices

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved DePuy's ASR Hip Resurfacing System in 2003. It approved the company's ASR XL Acetabular System one year later. Between 2003 and 2011, more than 90,000 patients (worldwide) underwent hip replacement surgery using these devices.

DePuy is the orthopedic unit of the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson. In 2011, DePuy learned of thousands of complaints from metal-on-metal hip replacement patients. As a result, the company conducted clinical trials on the defective products to determine whether a safer and more effective alternative existed.

According to Reuters, the study found that 13% of patients with the ASR XL Acetabular System needed revision surgery. The number of patients with the ASR Hip Resurfacing System who required revision surgery was slightly lower at 12%. As a result of these failure rates, DePuy submitted a new hip replacement system to the FDA for approval.

In June 2011, the FDA approved J & J's ceramic-on-metal hip replacement system. The company marketed its new device, DePuy Pinnacle Complete Acetabular Hip System, as an alternative to traditional metal-on-metal devices. The Pinnacle hip system seems to be safer than metal hip replacements.

Two years later, the FDA informed the manufacturers of metal-on-metal hip replacement systems that it was changing the approval requirements for these devices. Before 2013, manufacturers of these medical devices only had to notify the FDA when they changed the devices or the warnings on their packaging.

Effective May 2016, all companies had to submit their devices to the FDA for premarket approval. As a result, manufacturers recalled their metal-on-metal systems from the market. There are now no FDA-approved metal-on-metal hip replacement products.

Why Manufacturers May Be Liable

Many patients have filed lawsuits against DePuy and other metal hip manufacturers, including Stryker and Biomet. Stryker was the manufacturer of Rejuvenate and ABG II implants. Biomet was the maker of the M2a Magnum implant.

Over 10,000 plaintiffs filed hip lawsuits against DePuy. Thousands of other plaintiffs sued other manufacturers, such as Zimmer, the manufacturer of the Durom cup.

Under product liability law, the courts may hold metal hip manufacturers liable for injuries their products cause. In hip implant products liability litigation, plaintiffs must prove the implant had a defect. Or, the plaintiff can argue that the manufacturer gave inadequate warnings about the dangers of their implant.

Injured patients have alleged that the metal implants had a design defect, causing the device to fail after only a few years. This also caused the device to release metal particles into the body. These metal ions get into the bloodstream and cause an infection. These infections, or metal poisoning, can be dangerous and, in some instances, can be fatal.

Many patients claimed that they needed to undergo a painful and costly second revision surgery.

Class Action Lawsuits and Multidistrict Litigation

The thousands of hip replacement lawsuits were not part of a class action lawsuit. A class action involves many people with the same kind of injury. They file a single lawsuit against the same defendant.

Many hip replacement lawsuits have involved individual personal injury lawsuits in state court. The federal courts have consolidated thousands of other cases through Multi-District Litigation (MDL).

During the first half of 2013, juries returned verdicts in two DePuy hip replacement cases. A California jury awarded $8.3 million to compensate one plaintiff for injuries. In an Illinois DePuy metal-on-metal hip replacement case, the jury found in favor of the defendant. Following these verdicts, in late 2013, DePuy announced a settlement to compensate ASR hip system patients. The settlement sought to end significant ASR litigation in the U.S.

Few patients filed suit once manufacturers recalled their metal-on-metal hip replacement systems. This is because surgeons were no longer using the systems. Of course, patients who had metal-on-metal devices may develop injuries. If so, they can sue the device manufacturer.

Since manufacturers promised these devices would last up to thirty years, it's reasonable to expect further injuries.

Medical Malpractice for Hip Implant Injuries

Generally, manufacturers of metal-on-metal hip replacement systems are liable for patient injuries. But some plaintiffs also filed medical malpractice lawsuits against their health care providers.

The surgeon who performed your procedure may be liable for damages. Medical malpractice happens when a health care provider acts in a way that falls below the reasonable standard of care.

Common examples of when a medical professional may be liable for malpractice include:

  • Surgical error while implanting a metal hip
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Failing to inform a patient about the risks of the metal-on-metal hip replacement procedure

If your loved one dies as a result of their hip replacement, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Your wrongful death attorney must prove that the defects in the implant directly caused your family member's death.

Damages You Can Recover in a Metal Hip Replacement Lawsuit

If you suffer a metal hip replacement injury, your attorney can sue the manufacturer for damages. Your damages will depend on the nature and extent of your injury.

You may get some or all the following types of damages:

  • Medical bills
  • Future medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Lost future income
  • Pain and suffering

You must file your lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires. The statute of limitations for product liability in most states is two to three years. Don't wait until the last minute to contact an attorney. They'll need ample time to review and prepare your case.

For More Information About Hip Replacement Lawsuits, Talk to an Attorney

Metal hip replacements have been responsible for many injuries. If you suffer a metal hip replacement injury, talk to an experienced product liability attorney. Most firms will offer you a free case evaluation. This gives them a chance to determine if your case has merit. It also allows you to discuss your case with a seasoned professional who has your best interests at heart.

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