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A panel of federal judges has scheduled oral arguments over whether dozens of hip replacement lawsuits filed over problems with Wright Profemur implants should be centralized before one judge, for coordinated pretrial proceedings.
Wright Medical Technology and MicroPort Orthopedics, Inc. face at least 42 complaints pending in 25 different U.S. District Courts, each involving plaintiffs who experienced complications after the Profemur Modular necks and Profemur femoral stems were used together in a total hip replacement system.
Unlike traditional hip replacement systems, which feature a single femoral component, the Wright Profemur hip stem features two modular pieces, which allow the implant to be adjusted for leg length. However, problems with the modular hip design have plagued the Wright Profemur system, leading to reports of corrosion as the metal pieces rub against each other during normal daily activities. Plaintiffs claim the design is prone to fracture and fail at the femoral neck stem.
On May 18, plaintiffs filed a Motion to Transfer with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict litigation, calling for all lawsuits filed in federal courts nationwide to be consolidated as part of a Wright Profemur MDL, which would help avoid duplicative discovery, prevent contradictory rulings from different judges, and serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses, and the courts.
In a notice of hearing session (PDF) published on June 26, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) announced it will hear oral arguments on the proposed consolidation on July 30.
The hearing will be held at the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building in Washington, D.C., but will be conducted by videoconference or teleconference due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Wright Profemur Hip Problems
The Wright Profemur Total Hip System was one of the first modular hip implant designs. However, several years ago, the manufacturer faced several hundred Wright Profemur hip lawsuits, filed by individuals who said their devices failed within a few years, alleging that the system featured an unreasonably dangerous design which resulted in fractures, breaks, degradation, fretting, failures and the need for revision surgery.
A number of Wright Profemur cases went to trial, one of which resulted in a $4.5 million verdict by a California state court jury. Several other claims were settled before they went to trial.
In the motion to transfer, plaintiffs request the federal litigation be consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
If the U.S. JPML agrees to centralize the cases, it is likely the judge will establish a “bellwether” process, where a group of representative claims will be prepared for early trial dates to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be presented throughout other cases.
While the outcome for these early trials would not be binding on other plaintiffs, they may facilitate Wright Profemur hip settlements that would avoid the need for dozens, or possibly hundreds, of additional trials to be scheduled throughout the federal court system.