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The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has agreed to consolidate all Stryker Rejuvenate hip replacement lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, centralizing the cases before one judge as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.
According to a transfer order (PDF) issued on June 12, complaints filed involving any Stryker Rejuvenate or Stryker ABG II hip components will be transferred to U.S. District Judge Donovan W. Frank in the District of Minnesota for coordinated handling during pretrial proceedings.
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.
Although artificial hips are typically designed to last 15 to 20 years, a recall was issued for Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG II hips in July 2012, after data suggested that the implants were prone to corrode or fret at the modular junction, increasing the risk of inflammation, loosening and failure of the artificial hip within a few years.
There are currently at least 41 lawsuits filed against Stryker filed in 16 different U.S. District Courts. All of the complaints involve similar 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.
Centralizing the lawsuits over Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG II hips before one judge is designed to reduce duplicative discovery, eliminate conflicting rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses, and the courts. As additional cases are brought in the future, they will be transferred to Judge Frank’s court for coordinated handling before trial.
Similar consolidated proceedings were already established earlier this year for Stryker ABG II and Rejuvenate cases filed in New Jersey state court, were at least 161 lawsuits have already been filed, according to a case list (PDF) released by the New Jersey courts earlier this month.
Stryker Hip MDL Includes Both Rejuvenate and ABG II Implants
Although the Howmedica Osteonics, the parent company for Stryker Corp., supported the centralization of the lawsuits over Stryker Rejuvenate hips, the company opposed the inclusion of cases involving the ABG II component, which was recalled at the same time. Although the device maker argued that there were not enough Stryker ABG II hip lawsuits to justify centralized proceedings, the MDL panel disagreed and indicated that, if necessary, Judge Frank could create a separate track for the two different components.
At a hearing held late last month, the hip maker also attempted to convince the MDL panel that the centralized proceedings should be referred to as the “Rejuvenate Total Hip System Product Liability Litigation”, dropping the Stryker name from the proceedings. The MDL Panel denied that request as well, pointing out that Howmedica has consistently referred to themselves and their product as “Stryker” on several releases and notices concerning the recall of the hip replacements, including a patient-specific website dedicated to the recall, http://www.aboutstryker.com/modularneckstems.
Over the coming months, the size of the litigation is expected to increase dramatically as individuals throughout the country continue to experience Stryker Rejuvenate hip failures, which often result in the need for revision surgery.
Prior to removing the devices from the market, more than 20,000 Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG II hips were sold nationwide. As product liability lawyers continue to review and file cases in U.S. District Courts throughout the country, they will be transferred to Judge Frank for coordinated handling and pretrial proceedings.
If a Stryker Rejuvenate settlement agreement or other resolution for the litigation is not reached following pretrial proceedings, each case may ultimately be remanded back to the court where it was originally filed for an individual trial.
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