Hip Replacement Lawsuit Over Wright Conserve Implant Goes Before Jury in MDL

Trial began this week for a Wright Conserve hip replacement lawsuit, which is the first in a series of planned bellwether test cases in the federal court system involving the controversial implant design.

There are currently more than 530 product liability lawsuits pending as part of a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL), each involving problems with Wright Conserve hip implants, which features a metal-on-metal design that has been linked to reports of early failures and complications associated with microscopic metal debris released as the metal parts rub against each other.

Since February 2012, all Wright Conserve cases filed throughout the federal court system have been centralized before U.S. District Judge William S. Duffey, Jr. in the Northern District of Georgia to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

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Hip Replacements Lawsuits

Lawsuits are being reviewed for several different dangerous and defective hip replacement systems.

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As part of the coordinated proceedings, Judge Duffey established a “bellwether” program, where a small group of cases have been prepared for early trial dates to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.

Jury selections began on Monday in a case filed by Robyn Christiansen in January 2013, which was originally scheduled for trial to begin in March.

According to allegations raised in her complaint (PDF), Christiansen received a Wright Conserve hip system in April 2006. Although artificial hip replacement are expected to last about 20 years, the lawsuit indicates that design problems caused the device to fail about six years later, resulting in the need for revision surgery to have it removed in October 2012.

Christiansen seeks compensatory damages for pain, suffering, emotional distress, and economic loss. She also seeks punitive damages against the manufacturer as well.

While the outcome of this bellwether trial will not be binding on other Wright Conserve hip lawsuits, it will be closely watched by lawyers involved in the litigation, as it may facilitate further negotiations to settle claims and avoid the need for hundreds of individual cases to be filed in courts throughout the country.

Metal-on-Metal Hip Lawsuits and Settlements

The Wright Conserve hip litigation involves allegations similar to those brought in other metal-on-metal hip replacement lawsuits filed in recent years over other popular designs, including the DePuy ASR, DePuy Pinnacle, Biomet Magnum and others.

Most of the lawsuits claim that the Wright Conserve hip’s metal “ball” and “socket” bearings generate metal debris over time, which can spread to the surrounding bone and tissue. As a result of the defective design, individuals who receive the Wright Conserve may suffer unnecessary pain and suffering, debilitating lack of mobility, inflammation causing damage or death to surrounding tissue and bone, metallosis and toxicity.

In addition, the problems often result in more difficult revision surgery to replace the implant, causing additional pain and suffering, a prolonged recovery time and an increased risk of complications, according to the complaints.

More than 12,000 DePuy ASR hip lawsuits were filed against Johnson & Johnson after their metal-on-metal implant was recalled in August 2010, amid higher-than-expected failure rates. Following several bellwether trials, the manufacturer agreed to pay more than $2.4 billion to settle the DePuy ASR litigation.


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