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Metal-on-Metal Hip Settlement Reached in Wright Conserve Litigation

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Wright Medical has reached a tentative $240 million settlement agreement to resolve nearly 1,300 hip replacement lawsuits filed by individuals nationwide who received one of the company’s metal-on-metal implants. However, the agreement would still leave hundreds of cases pending, even if approved. 

The Wright metal hip settlement was announced in a press release issued by the manufacturer on November 2, which would impact certain cases brought by individuals who required revision surgery after a Conserve, Dynasty or Lineage metal-on-metal implant was received. However, 95% of eligible plaintiffs must agree to participate for the settlement to move forward.

Each of the complaints involved in the Wright Conserve hip litigation raise similar allegations, indicating that the metal-on-metal design causes microscopic debris to be released during normal daily activities, which may cause the implant to prematurely fail within a few years.

Although hip replacements are expected to last at least 15 to 20 years, plaintiffs indicate that they experienced catastrophic failure within a few years, typically resulting in the need for risky revision surgery to remove and replace the metal-on-metal hip implant.

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.

The settlement agreement would apply to any case that is pending or tolled as part of the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL), or part of a California mass tort known as a judicial Council Coordination Proceeding (JCCP). Participants must have had revision surgery within eight years of having received the original implant and must not have filed their claim outside of the statute of limitations.

“We are very pleased to have reached this settlement agreement, in particular the population of claims that the settlement covers as well as the required 95% opt-in rate for those claims,” Wright Medical President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Palmisano said in the press release. “The settlement addresses approximately 85% of the known U.S. revision claims that do not have potential statute of limitation issues and removes a great deal of the uncertainty that has been associated with this litigation.”

The metal-on-metal hip settlement fails to resolve about 600 claims where plaintiffs had to undergo revision surgery; including about 200 cases where they had the implant for longer than eight years, 300 that the manufacturer argues are outside of the statute of limitations, about 30 cases filed in other states or not part of the MDL, and another 50 filed outside of the U.S. In addition, there are an estimated 700 lawsuits where the individuals did not undergo revision surgery, which are also not included in the settlement agreement.

The press release indicates that Wright Medical will continue to defend against the claims not covered by the settlement agreement.

The agreement comes after Wright Medical lost the first in a series of bellwether trials for Conserve hip replacement lawsuits. That trial resulted in an $11 million verdict, including $10 million in punitive damages. A later ruling reduced that verdict to just over $2 million.

Similar allegations were raised in nearly 12,000 DePuy ASR hip lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson, after their metal-on-metal implant was recalled in August 2010. Following several bellwether trials, the manufacturer ultimately agreed to pay more than $2.4 billion to settle the DePuy ASR litigation.

Other metal-on-metal hip replacement lawsuits have also been filed over similar designs, including the DePuy Pinnacle, Biomet Magnum and others.

More recently, a new wave of hip implant cases have begun to emerge, involving individuals who received certain large-diameter femoral heads as part of their artificial hip replacement. The cases stem from a recent Stryker LFit V40 recall issued due to a high rate of problems experienced by individuals who received the femoral head used in various different types of hip systems, including Stryker Accolade, Stryker Meridian, Stryker Citation and other implants.

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