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According to allegations raised in a recently filed product liability lawsuit over problems with a Wright Profemur hip replacement, the manufacturer knew for years that the system was defectively designed, with a tendency to fret, corrode and fail prematurely.
Elaine Shubin and her husband, Patrick, filed a complaint (PDF) in Arizona federal court on June 5, claiming Wright Medical Technology, Inc. and Microport Orthopedics, Inc. sold an unreasonably dangerous and defective hip replacement system, which failed to perform as an ordinary consumer would expect.
Shubin indicates she underwent a left total hip arthroplasty in October 2015, at which time she was implanted with a Profemur Total Hip System. However, in March 2020, Shubin had to undergo revision surgery to have the implant removed after the Wright hip implant failed. She was also diagnosed with signs of elevated cobalt ion levels in her blood, which was allegedly caused by metallic debris released into her body as the metal parts rubbed against each other.
Unlike traditional hip replacement systems, which feature a single femoral component, the Wright Profemur hip stem features two modular pieces, which allow the implant to be adjusted for leg length. However, problems with the modular hip design have plagued the Wright Profemur system, leading to reports of failure at the femoral neck stem.
“Defendants have long known that their device design has an unacceptable tendency to fret and corrode at the location of the modular neck-stem-body junction during even low to moderate physical activity,” the lawsuit states. “Significantly, consequent to reports of fretting, corrosion and fracture at the Stem and Modular Neck junction, Defendant MicroPort issued a recall and ceased marketing the Device.”
In recent years, several hundred Wright Profemur hip lawsuits have been filed by individuals who said their devices failed within a few years, alleging that the implant fractured, broke, degraded or experienced other problems resulting in the need for early revision surgery.
A number of the cases went to trial in courts nationwide, including a California state court case that resulted in a $4.5 million verdict, leading the manufacturer to reach settlements in a number of claims.
However, as individuals implanted with the defective Profemur system still in their body continue to experience problems, new hip replacement lawsuits continue to be filed throughout the federal court system.
Last month, several plaintiffs filed a motion to transfer with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict litigation, calling for all Wright Profemur hip lawsuits filed in federal courts nationwide to be consolidated as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, which would help avoid duplicative discovery, prevent contradictory rulings from different judges, and serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses, and the courts.
If U.S. JPML agrees to centralize the cases, it is likely the judge will establish a “bellwether” process, where a group of representative claims will be prepared for early trial dates to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be presented throughout other cases. While the outcome for these early trials would not be binding on other plaintiffs, they may facilitate Wright Profemur hip settlements that would avoid the need for dozens, or possibly hundreds, of additional trials to be scheduled throughout the federal court system.