Howmedica Supports MDL for Stryker Rejuvenate Hip Lawsuits

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Howmedica Osteonics Corp., the makers of the Stryker Rejuvenate hip replacement system, has indicated that it agrees all of the federal lawsuits filed over their recalled modular neck-stem should be consolidated before one judge for coordinated handling as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.

In a brief (PDF) filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) on March 18, Howmedica agreed that consolidation was appropriate for all Stryker Rejuvenate hip lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country. However, the manufacturer indicated that it does not support an order that any lawsuits over the recalled ABG II modular hip be included in the MDL, as no complaints have actually been filed over that component.

Last month, one of the plaintiffs involved in the litigation, Robert Davis, filed a request with the U.S. JPML to centralized the Stryker hip replacement litigation as part of an MDL, asking that all complaints filed over the Rejuvenate or ABG II modular-neck stem be consolidated for pretrial proceedings in the District of Minnesota.

Stryker recalled both the Rejuvenate and ABG II modular hip components 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.

While more than 100 product liability lawsuits have been filed in state and federal courts throughout the country against Howmedica Osteonics and their Stryker Corporation subsidiaries since the recall, and the medical device manufacturer indicates that none of the complaints allege injury arising from implantation of the ABG II product.

Stryker Rejuvenate Modular Hip Implant Problems

Unlike traditional hip implants, which feature a single femoral component, the Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG II are modular, featuring two pieces that fit inside each other to allow the surgeon to customize the length 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, the Stryker components were removed from the market less than four years after they were introduced. However, more than 53,000 of the Stryker hip replacements were sold before the recall, with most already implanted into patients.

All of the lawsuits filed in state and federal courts throughout the country 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.

Stryker Rejuvenate MDL Proposed in Minnesota

If a Stryker Rejuvenate MDL is established in the federal court system, all lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country would be transferred to one judge for coordinated handing during pretrial proceedings to reduce duplicative discovery, eliminate conflicting pretrial rulings and serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts. Such centralized proceedings increase efficiencies and may ultimately include several thousand lawsuits filed on behalf of individuals who claim that their Stryker Rejuvenate hip failed within a few years after it was implanted.

In their response, Howmedica has requested that the U.S. JPML remove Stryker from the title of any MDL that is established for the lawsuits, even though the company did business as Stryker Corporation and all prior communications regarding the Rejuvenate hip system have referred to it as a Stryker product, including the press release announcing the recall that was posted by the FDA.

Consumers who received the Rejuvenate system have been told they received a Stryker hip replacement and the reason for the request to remove Stryker from the name of the MDL is not clear, other than possible motivations by the device maker to protect their brand from the negative publicity surrounding the defective implant.

In addition to the federal litigation, Howmedica faces 80 cases that have been filed in New Jersey state court, where the Supreme Court of New Jersey ordered earlier this year that the cases be consolidated for pretrial proceedings in Bergen County as part of a Multi-County Litigation (MCL), which is similar to an MDL, but at the state level.

There are currently at least 38 lawsuits over the Stryker Rejuvenate pending in 10 different states throughout the federal court system. In addition, the litigation is expected to continue to grow over the coming months as hip replacement lawyers continue to review and file new claims for individuals who have experienced problems.

Howmedica has indicated that it supports the proposal made by plaintiff Robert Davis, that the cases be centralized in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, where about 10 of the Rejuvenate lawsuits are already pending. However, other plaintiffs have filed responses suggesting other venues for the MDL, including the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern District of Arkansas and Northern District of California.

The U.S. JPML is expected to schedule oral arguments over the MDL petition to be heard at an upcoming hearing session that will be held in Chicago on May 30, 2013.

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