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A panel of federal judges has decided all hip replacement lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system over problems with Wright Profemur implants will be centralized before one judge in Arkansas, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
Wright Medical Technology and MicroPort Orthopedics, Inc. currently faces at least 42 Profemur hip implant cases filed in 25 different U.S. District Courts, each involving plaintiffs who experienced complications after the modular neck and femoral stems were used during total hip replacements.
Unlike traditional hip implant 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 request to consolidate all Profemur hip lawsuits, asking the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to transfer the cases to one judge, which they argued would help avoid duplicative discovery, prevent contradictory rulings from different judges, and serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses, and the courts.
On August 7, following a hearing via videoconference in late July, the JPML issued a transfer order (PDF), indicating that the federal Profemur hip litigation will be centralized in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, before Judge Kristine G. Baker for coordinated pretrial proceedings.
“The number of actions and involved districts, and the substantial similarity of the claims asserted by the various plaintiffs, suggest to us that centralization will result in significant efficiency and convenience benefits for the parties and the courts,” the panel wrote. “The sheer number of counsel, cases and judges involved in this litigation make informal coordination impractical.”
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.
Now that the cases have been centralized as part of an MDL, 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 which would avoid the need for dozens, or possibly hundreds, of additional trials to be scheduled throughout the federal court system.