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Agreements continue to be reached to settle lawsuits brought by individuals who experienced problems with recalled Stryker Rejuvenate hip replacements, as early mediations are on-going in an effort to resolve cases before a lengthy litigation process.
According to a case management order (PDF) issued last week in the Superior Court of New Jersey for Bergen County, where nearly 800 Stryker Rejuvenate lawsuits are currently pending, the parties have successfully settled eight out of the first nine cases to go through a court-ordered mediation process.
Nearly 1,500 Stryker Rejuvenate hip cases have been filed in state and federal courts throughout the country, all involving similar allegations that problems with the modular design of the hip replacement system caused the implant to fret, loosen and fail within a few years.
A Stryker hip recall was issued in July 2012, impacting an estimated 20,000 Rejuvenate and ABG II implants that featured similar designs. Although hip implants are expected to last 15 to 20 years, the recall was issued less than two years after the design was introduced, due to a higher-than-expected failure rate.
Unlike traditional hip implants, which feature a single femoral component, the Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG II contains a modular neck-stem, which consists of two pieces that fit inside each other to allow the surgeon to customize the length of the femoral component 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.
Stryker Rejuvenate Mediation Program
In New Jersey state court, all Stryker hip lawsuits have been centralized before Superior Court Judge Brian R. Martinotti in Bergen County, where the cases is being coordinated as part of a Multi-County Litigation, or MCL.
In an attempt to see if Stryker Rejuvenate settlements may be reached before lengthy and expensive litigation, Judge Martinotti established a mediation process last year.
The first phase involved a group of 10 cases that were selected for early negotiations before a court-appointed mediator. One of those selected cases was delayed, but the parties were able to successfully resolve eight of the remaining nine cases following mediation efforts, Judge Martinotti reported in the order issued February 27.
Another group of cases are currently being selected for a second phase of mediation efforts, which will involve several cases where the plaintiffs are 78 years of age or older. The Court has already randomly selected five cases and plaintiffs have identified another five cases that will be part of this phase 2 mediation. Stryker has been ordered to choose it’s selections no later than March 14, 2014.
Following the finalization of the second round case picks, the parties will submit all pertinent medical records and a Plaintiff Fact Sheet within 10 days of the selection of the case for mediation.
The parties are scheduled to meet with Judge Martinotti for a case management conference on April 1, 2014, at which time it is expected that additional information will become available about the status of the mediation program.
In addition to cases pending in New Jersey state court, more than 576 complaints are currently pending in the federal court system, where cases filed throughout the country have been centralized before U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank in the District of Minnesota, as part of an MDL or Multidistrict Litigation.
According to a joint status report submitted by the parties in the MDL on February 17, a similar mediation program is being considered in the federal Stryker Rejuvenate MDL, given the success of the New Jersey mediations.
If progress towards settlement does not continue, it is likely that small groups of cases will be scheduled for early trial dates. Known as “bellwether” cases, such early trial dates are common in complex medical device litigation, as they could help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.