Process Outlined for Preparing First MDL Zimmer NexGen Knee Lawsuits

The U.S. District Judge presiding over all Zimmer NexGen knee replacement lawsuits pending in the federal court system has outlined the process for selecting the first cases for trial, which will likely not go before a jury until early 2015.  

Nearly 1,000 product liability lawsuits have been filed throughout the country by individuals who experienced problems with Zimmer NexGen knee implants, alleging that certain components were defectively designed and prone to fail within a few years.

In August 2011, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated all federal Zimmer NexGen knee lawsuits brought throughout the federal court system before Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, as part of an MDL or multidistrict litigation.

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The cases were consolidated for pretrial litigation to avoid contradictory pretrial rulings, reduce duplicative discovery and help facilitate the efficient litigation of the cases. As part of the coordinated proceedings, a small group of cases are being prepared for early trial dates. Known as “bellwether” cases, the trials are designed to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation.

According to minutes (PDF) from a telephone conference between Judge Pallmeyer and lawyers involved in the Zimmer knee replacement lawsuits late last month, each side will identify case picks for the trial pool by June 20, 2013. To be eligible for one of the early trial dates in the Zimmer NexGen MDL, a case must have been trasferred into the proceedings before January 25, 2013 and the plaintiffs must have provided a completed Fact Sheet with medical authorizations by April 25.

Case specific discovery will be conducted on the cases between July 2013 and January 2014, with the parties proposing in February 2014 which cases should be selected for the first trial. Following expert witness disclosures, discovery and challenges, Judge Pallmeyer indicates that the first case will be trial ready by January 2015.

According to the most recent case list (PDF) released by the U.S. JPML, there were at least 988 lawsuits involving the Zimmer NexGen knee system pending before Judge Pallmeyer as of May 15. The complaints involve various components, including the Zimmer NexGen LPS-Flex, Zimmer NexGen CR-Flex, Zimmer NexGen GSF LPS-Flex, Zimmer NexGen GSF CR-Flex and Zimmer NexGen MIS Tibia component.

The Zimmer NexGen system was first introduced in 1995, with most components later approved without extensive trials or FDA investigation into their safety through the 510K fast-track approval program, which only requires that devices be “substantially equivalent” to medical devices already on the market to obtain marketing approval.

All of the complaints involve similar allegations that plaintiffs experienced problems with certain Zimmer knee replacements, which were allegedly caused by design defects or Zimmer’s failure to provide accurate information about the risk of problems.

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