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The federal judge presiding over all Stryker hip replacement lawsuits involving problems caused by the recalled LFit v40 femoral head has outlined the process for selecting a small group of cases for “bellwether” trials.
The Stryker LFit v40 is a component used in several hip replacement systems, which was removed from the market last year amid a higher-than-expected number of reports involving hip complications and failures, including taper lock problems with the cobalt-chromium femoral head that may result in pain, inflammation, loss of mobility, disassociation and the need for risky revision surgery.
Given similar questions of fact and law raised in cases filed nationwide, all hip replacement lawsuits involving the Stryker LFit v30 have been centralized before U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, as part of an MDL or multidistrict litigation.
In a case management order (PDF) issued on December 8, Judge Talwani called on plaintiffs and defendants to each select nine cases, for a total of 18, which will be included in an initial bellwether discovery pool. By February 2, 2018, the parties have been directed to submit their selections from any cases filed before December 12, 2017, where a “substantially completed” Plaintiffs’ Fact Sheet was served on or before January 12, 2018.
The order also lays out the process for scheduling depositions with plaintiffs, their spouses or significant others, and physicians.
For any bellwether cases subsequently dismissed by plaintiffs before October 2018, Judge Talwani indicates that the manufacturer will be permitted to select a replacement case. Any bellwether cases resolved through a settlement by the same date, Judge Talwani indicates that plaintiffs will be permitted to name a replacement.
In September 2018, the parties will each submit proposals regarding how many of the 18 bellwether cases will be eligible for the initial trial pool, with the first cases expected to go before a jury on September 16, 2019.
While the outcome of such bellwether trials are not binding on other plaintiffs, they are closely watched in complex product liability litigation, where large numbers of cases raise similar allegations and injury claims, as they may help the parties gauge how juries will respond to evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.
Similar centralized proceedings were previously established in the federal court system following a 2012 Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG II recall, which resulted in thousands of lawsuits brought by individuals nationwide. Following coordinated discovery in that litigation, the manufacturer agreed to pay more than $1 billion in hip implant settlements to resolve cases for individuals who required revision surgery after these recalled implant failed.