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At the end of next month, a panel of federal judges will consider whether all Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG II hip replacement lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country should be consolidated before one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) issued a Notice of Hearing Session (PDF) earlier this month, scheduling oral arguments over a motion to create a Stryker hip implant MDL for May 30.
While Howmedica Osteonics Corp., the manufacturer of the recalled hip systems, has agreed that an MDL is appropriate for all lawsuits over the Stryker Rejuvenate modular neck-stem, the device maker has opposed the inclusion of any lawsuits over their Stryker ABG II implants, which feature a similar design and were recalled at the same time.
In a response filed on March 18, Howmedica indicated that no lawsuits had actually been filed over the ABG II modular hip. However, since that time, several responses have been filed by plaintiffs who have brought Stryker ABG II hip lawsuits, arguing that those cases should also be included in any Stryker Rejuvenate MDL.
Problems with Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG II Modular Hips
Unlike traditional hip implants, which feature a single femoral component, the Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG II are modular neck-stems, featuring 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 recalled both the Rejuvenate and ABG II modular hip components in July 2012, after data suggested that the implants were prone to corrode or fret at the modular junction, increasing the risk of inflammation, loosening and failure of the artificial hip within a few years.
Although artificial hips are typically designed to last 15 to 20 years, the Stryker components were removed from the market less than four years after they were introduced.
All of the lawsuits filed in state and federal courts throughout the country involve similar allegations that Howmedica and their Stryker subsidiaries designed and sold a defective and unreasonably dangerous system. Complaints also allege that the manufacturer failed to warn patients or the medical community about the potential risk of problems with Stryker Rejuvenate hip replacements.
MDL Panel To Consider Whether To Include Stryker ABG II Hip Lawsuits with Rejuvenate Lawsuits
There are currently at least 57 Stryker hip replacement lawsuits filed in more than a dozen different federal district courts involving either the Stryker Rejuvenate or ABG II implants.
U.S. JPML will consider whether to centralize all of the cases before one judge for coordinated handling, to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting rulings from different juges and serve the convenience of the witnesses, parties and the courts.
According to responses filed earlier this month by two plaintiffs who have filed a lawsuit over problems with an ABG II stem, the U.S. JPML has been asked to include both implants in the same MDL, as they have almost identical design characteristics that raise common factual issues.
“Of the 57 filings, there are currently four known ABG II cases pending in various district courts, and the number is expected to grow exponentially as there were over 9,000 ABG II devices recalled less than a year ago,” wrote attorneys for plaintiff Stephanie Teoli in a response (PDF) filed with the U.S. JPML on April 10. “It is expected that at this early stage there would be less ABG II cases filed. This is relatively proportionate to the ratio of recalled devices considering over 43,000 Rejuvenate devices were recalled.”
According to a separate response (PDF) filed by plaintiffs Lisa and Brett Lincoln, who filed a Stryker ABG II lawsuit on April 3, the MDL Panel has been urged to recognize Howmedica’s assertion that ABG II claims should not be consolidated into this MDL as moot.
“At the time of Defendants filing it may have been true that there were no ABG II cases filed; that is no longer the case,” wrote attorneys representing Lincoln. “Plaintiff’s case involves the recalled ABG II device. Moreover, Plaintiff knows of at least three additional cases that have been filed in federal court concerning the ABG II device.”
The original motion asked the MDL Panel to transfer cases pending throughout the federal court system to the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. While Howmedica agreed that the most appropriate venue is the District of Minnesota, where at least 10 cases are already pending, a number of alternative District Courts have been proposed in other responses filed by interested parties. At the May 30 hearing, the U.S. JPML will consider the most appropriate transfer district for the cases.
In addition to the federal litigation, more than 140 lawsuits over the Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG II implants have been filed in New Jersey state court, where the cases have also been centralized before one judge for coordinated handling, as part of an MCL, or Multi-County Litigation.