Exactech Knee Replacement Lawsuits Will Be Selected for Bellwether Process on April 15, As Settlement Talks Continue

Selections will be made after the U.S. District Judge presiding over all Exactech knee recall lawsuits rejected a request by the manufacturer to delay the preparation of bellwether claims for early trial dates.

After the U.S. District Judge presiding over all Exactech knee replacement lawsuits rejected a request by the manufacturer to hold a closed-door conference on global settlement negotiations, the parties face a deadline of April 15 to identify their selections for representative claims that will be prepared for early bellwether trials in the federal litigation.

Exactech faces more than 1,200 product liability lawsuits throughout the federal court system, with hundreds of additional cases spread across different state courts nationwide, each raising similar allegations that manufacturing defects caused the joint implants to fail prematurely.

The plaintiffs claim that “out-of-specification” vacuum sealed bags were used with a plastic tibial insert component distributed prior to 2022, which allowed oxygen to reach their artificial knee, hip and ankle implants long before they were placed in the body. This has been shown to increase the risk of degradation and premature failure, often resulting in the need for additional surgery to remove the component only a few years later.

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Knee Replacement Lawsuits

Design problems with several types of knee implants have resulted in lawsuits for individuals who experienced painful complications.

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The litigation emerged after an Exactech recall was issued in February 2022, impacting more than than 140,000 Optetrak, Optetrak Logic and Truliant knee replacement systems implanted in patients since 2004, as well as 1,500 components used in Exactech Vantage ankle replacements.

Similar packaging problems have also impacted Exactech Novation and Acumatch hip implants distributed since 2008, which were recalled in June 2021. That Exactech hip recall was expanded again in August 2022, after the manufacturer identified another 40,000 joint replacements that may fail prematurely.

Given common questions of fact and law raised in the complaints filed throughout the federal court system, consolidated pretrial proceedings have been established before U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis in the Eastern District of New York, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.

Judge Rejects Calls for Settlement Conference

Late last month, defendants asked for an in camera (in chambers) conference to be held off-the-record in the near future, to discuss a possible global Exactech hip and knee settlement agreement before the first trials begin, requesting a stay of all MDL deadlines in the meantime.

However, last week plaintiffs’ attorneys urged Judge Garaufis to reject the request, arguing there is no compelling reason for the court to delay the litigation, since the parties are “nowhere close” to a global Exactech settlement.

In a text-only docket entry posted on April 1, Judge Garaufis sided with plaintiffs, denying the defendants’ request for an off-the-record meeting and a pause in the litigation.

“If mediation is unsuccessful, the parties may seek an on-the-record conference provided they inform the court of a proposed agenda in advance,” Garaufis determined. “The court will not consider future requests for off-the-record meetings.”

Exactech Knee Lawsuit Bellwether Trial Selections

As part of the management for the growing litigation, the court previously established a bellwether process, where small groups of claims involving allegations that have been repeated throughout a large number of other claims will be prepared for a series of early trial dates, to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the claims.

In January, Judge Garaufis ordered the parties to focus on Exactech knee replacement lawsuits for the first bellwether trials, which will focus on injuries and failures attributed to the Exactech Optetrak, Optetrak Logic and Truliant knee implants.

The parties have until April 15 to file selections for two bellwether pools: one focusing on cases filed directly in the Eastern District of New York (the EDNY Preliminary Pool), and the other involving a National Preliminary Pool, focusing on cases filed in other districts.

Following a status conference held last month, the parties filed a letter (PDF) to Judge Garaufis, asking that each side to be given three days to respond to opposing counsel’s bellwether selection briefs. These responses can be no longer than three pages, and are due by April 18.

Following the Exactech knee lawsuit trial selections, Judge Garaufis has ordered the parties to file a joint status report by June 10, updating the Court on the status of discovery proceedings, settlement discussions and the litigation overall. The Court will then hold a status conference the following week, on June 18.

The first New York trial pool Exactech knee replacement lawsuit is expected to go before a jury in the federal court system on June 2, 2025, with a second bellwether trial slated for August 5, 2025. However, a separate case pending in Florida state court is expected to go to trial in October 2024.

Although the outcomes of the bellwether trials in the federal MDL or Florida state court will have no binding impact on other lawsuits in the litigation, they will be closely watched and may have a large impact on any Exactech recall settlements the manufacturer offers to avoid the need for hundreds of individual trials to be scheduled in the coming years.

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