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By: Austin Kirk | Published: October 4th, 2013
The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Stryker Rejuvenate hip replacement lawsuits will soon designate a group of plaintiffs’ lawyers to serve in various leadership roles in the litigation, taking certain actions that benefit all hip patients who have brought cases after experiencing problems with the recalled component.
In June, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation established coordinated pretrial proceedings for all product liability lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system involving the recalled Stryker Rejuvenate or ABG II modular femoral hip component, which was removed from the market in last year, only a few years after it was introduced.
The cases filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide are centralized before U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank in the District of Minnesota to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues that will arise in a large number of cases, to avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, the witnesses and the courts.
Following a status conference held early last month, Judge Frank asked the plaintiffs’ lawyers who applied for leadership roles in the litigation to submit proposals for the leadership structure.
According to a proposed Order (PDF) submitted on September 16, plaintiffs suggested a structure with four lawyers serving as Co-Lead Counsel, who would coordinate and conduct discovery on behalf of all plaintiffs and conduct certain settlement negotiations. Another 18 hip replacement lawyers were designated for a Plaintiffs Steering Committee (PSC), which would assist the Co-Lead Counsel with pretrial discovery and trial preparation of the MDL.
In a response (PDF) filed last week by attorneys for Howmedica Osteonics Corp., the parent company of Stryker, the hip manufacturer raised concerns about a “multi-headed leadership structure”, suggesting that it will create confusion and duplication
Following an additional concerns and responses filed involving the selection of a Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel, who will coordinate communication between the federal litigation and state court litigation in New Jersey, Judge Frank issued an order on the docket earlier this week indicating that any parties seeking to respond to the proposed order regarding the leadership structure must do so by filing a brief letter with the court before the end of the day today, October 4.
It is expected that Judge Frank will then issue an order establishing the lawyers who will serve in various leadership roles, which will facilitate further progress in the litigation.
Stryker Rejuvenate Hip Recall Litigation
At the time the Stryker Rejuvenate MDL was established, there were about 41 complaints filed in 16 different U.S. District Courts nationwide. However, according to an updated case list (PDF) provided by the U.S. JPML last month, there are now more than 290 lawsuits centralized before Judge Frank.
As Stryker hip replacement lawyers continue to review and file additional lawsuits involving the Rejuvenate or ABG II components, estimates have suggested that thousands of cases may ultimately be centralized in the MDL.
More than 20,000 of the implants were sold in the United States before the Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG II hip recall was issued in July 2012. Although artificial hips are expected to last 15 to 20 years, these components were removed from the market only two years after they were introduced.
Unlike traditional hip implants, which feature a single femoral component, the Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG II are modular neck-stems, featuring two pieces that fit inside each other to allow the surgeon to customize the length of the femoral component based on the patient. However, the design has been linked to an increased risk of problems that may result from the release of microscopic metal debris as the chromium-cobalt neck rubs against the titanium femoral stem. This can cause the implants to corrode or fret at the modular junction, increasing the risk of inflammation and loosening of the hip implant.
All of the complaints included in the MDL involve allegations that Howmedica and their Stryker subsidiaries designed and sold a defective and unreasonably dangerous system. Complaints also allege that the manufacturer failed to warn patients or the medical community about the potential risk of problems with Stryker Rejuvenate hip replacements.
After the leadership structure is established in the Stryker Rejuvenate MDL, it is expected that a small group of cases will be prepared for early trial dates, known as “bellwether” cases. The preparation of these cases and the outcomes of any trials are designed to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to similar evidence and testimony that will be presented throughout the litigation, potentially facilitating further settlement negotiations between the parties.