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As settlement negotiations continue in Stryker Rejuvenate hip lawsuits filed nationwide, a New Jersey judge has announced that the two bellwether trial dates have been tentatively scheduled for next summer, which would be designed to help the parties gauge the relative strengths and weaknesses of the cases.
Howmedica Osteonics currently faces more than 2,000 product liability lawsuits filed by individuals who have experienced problems with Stryker Rejuvenate or ABG II modular hip implants, which were recalled in July 2012 amid reports that the device is prone to fret, corrode and fail within a few years after it is implanted.
About half of the cases filed nationwide are centralized in the Superior Court of Bergen County, New Jersey before Judge Brian R. Martinotti, who is presiding over a Multicounty Litigation (MCL) in the state, which is where the manufacturer’s U.S. headquarters are based.
On May 20, Judge Martinotti issued a case management order (PDF) that provides updated information on court-mandated mediation efforts that are underway in a handful of cases and outlines the process for selecting and preparing a group of cases for early trial dates, which are currently scheduled to begin on June 15, 2015 and July 13, 2015.
All of the complaints involve similar allegations that the Stryker Rejuvenate modular hip stem was defectively designed and unreasonably dangerous as sold by Howmedica.
Unlike traditional hip implants, which feature a single femoral component, the Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG II 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.
An estimated 20,000 people received the device before it was recalled less than two years after it was introduced, and the number of lawsuits filed nationwide continues to grow as more and more people have their Stryker Rejuvenate hip implants fail.
Efforts to Settle Stryker Rejuvenate Cases
While preparations are underway for the bellwether trial dates, Judge Martinotti is continuing with efforts to see if Stryker Rejuvenate settlements may be reached early in the litigation process.
Over the past year, small groups of cases have been going through pretrial mediation efforts on a case-by-case basis.
According to the latest update provided by the Court last week, all 12 cases that have gone through the mediation process so far in New Jersey have resolved. Three additional cases were scheduled for mediation last week and additional cases are scheduled over the course of the next 30 days.
In addition to the state court litigation, more than 800 complaints filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country have been consolidated as part of an MDL (multidistrict litigation), which are centralized before U.S. District Judge Donovan W. Frank in the District of Minnesota.
According to the New Jersey order, at least 14 other cases filed in the Stryker Rejuvenate MDL have also settled during mediation efforts.
Stryker Rejuvenate Bellwether Trials
In the event that mediation efforts break down or progress is not made in resolving the vast majority of cases over the next year, the bellwether trials are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be offered throughout the litigation.
A small group of cases are also being prepared for early trial dates in the federal Stryker Rejuvenate MDL before Judge Frank, who has indicated that a series of cases will go before juries involving five different categories of cases, based on the specific implant model, whether the hip replacement was prior to 2011 and whether the revision was complicated or uncomplicated.
According to a pretrial order (PDF) issued by Judge Frank on May 28, three cases from each category will go through discovery and be prepared for trial in the MDL.
Judge Frank has indicated that the parties should meet and attempt to agree upon the cases in each category before they are selected on July 21. If the sides can not agree, then each party has been directed to file their selections by that date and they will then have another week to contest any of the choices chosen by the other side.
If settlements or another resolution for the litigation is not reached following a series of bellwether trials, thousands of individual trial dates may be set in courts throughout the country.