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Court-ordered mediation efforts continue in New Jersey state court, in an attempt to settle Stryker Rejuvenate hip lawsuits early in the litigation process and avoid the need for thousands of trials to be scheduled nationwide.
Stryker currently faces more than 4,000 product liability lawsuits in state and federal courts nationwide involving allegations that individuals experienced problems with Stryker Rejuvenate or ABG II hip replacement systems, which were recalled in 2012 amid reports that they were prone to fret, corrode and fail within a few years.
Early “bellwether” trial dates are expected to begin next summer, to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout the litigation. However, the parties continue to meet and discuss settling Stryker Rejuvenate claims on a case-by-case basis through court-ordered mediation.
New Jersey Settlement Program
About half of the cases filed nationwide are pending in New Jersey state court, where the manufacturer’s U.S. headquarters are located. The New Jersey litigation has been centralized before Superior Court Judge Brian R. Martinotti in Bergen County as part of a Multi-County Litigation (MCL).
In a case management order (PDF) issued on October 8, Judge Martinotti provided an update on continuing mediation efforts to settle Stryker Rejuvenate cases in the state. Parties have reached settlement agreements in 20 out of the 21 cases that have gone through the first two phases of the Court’s mediation program.
Judge Martinotti also identified ten additional cases that have been selected for participation in a Phase III mediation in the New Jersey courts.
In the event that settlement agreements are not reached to resolve a large number of cases, two Stryker Rejuvenate bellwether trials have been scheduled in New Jersey state court, which are tentatively set for June 15, 2015 and July 13, 2015. Judge Martinotti has directed the parties to continue to meet and confer about the process for selecting the individual cases that will go forward on that date. If an agreement is not reached by November 17, Judge Martinotti has indicated that the Court will establish a briefing schedule to address the issue.
While the outcomes of these bellwether trials are not binding in other cases, the outcomes may influence Stryker Rejuvenate hip settlement negotiations, helping the parties identify the relative strengths and weaknesses of their positions.
Stryker Rejuvenate Litigation
All of the lawsuits involved in the state and federal court litigation involve similar allegations, claiming that the Stryker Rejuvenate hip implant was defectively designed and unreasonably dangerous, causing users to experience problems that often result in the need for risky revision surgery.
Unlike traditional hip implants, which feature a single femoral component, the Stryker Rejuvenate contained a modular neck-stem, with two pieces that fit inside of 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.
Prior to the recall, an estimated 20,000 of the implants were sold, and it is expected that Stryker Rejuvenate problems are going to continue to cause users to suffer catastrophic failure of their hip replacements the longer the device remains in place.
In addition to the New Jersey state court litigation, about 2,000 Stryker Rejuvenate hip cases are pending in the federal court system, which have also been consolidated as part of a Multi-District Litigation (MDL), placing the lawsuits before one judge for pretrial proceedings. The lawsuits are centralized before U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank in the District of Minnesota to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
Judge Frank has initiated a similar mediation program to discuss settling Stryker Rejuvenate lawsuits, and a series of bellwether trials are also expected to begin in the MDL next summer if the litigation is not resolved. Following the federal bellwether process, if Stryker fails to resolve the majority of cases, Judge Frank could begin remanding hundreds of cases back to U.S. District Courts nationwide for individual trial dates.