Stryker Rejuvenate Hip Trials to be Ready to Begin Summer 2015 in MDL

The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Stryker Rejuvenate hip lawsuits has indicated that the first cases in the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) will be ready for trial during the summer of 2015.

As mediations continue in attempt to reach agreements to settle Stryker Rejuvenate cases, plans are moving forward to prepare a small group of cases for early trial dates, known as “bellwether” cases, which are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.

There are currently more than 1,500 product liability lawsuits pending that involve claims that individuals experienced problems with Stryker Rejuvenate or ABG II modular hip replacements, which were recalled in July 2012 amid reports that the implants may fret and corrode at the modular stem, causing early failure.

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Lawsuits are being reviewed for several different dangerous and defective hip replacement systems.

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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.

In the federal court system, more than 600 of the cases have been centralized before U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank in the District of Minnesota as part of an MDL, to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

According to a Pretrial Order (PDF) issued on March 14, the MDL court met with attorneys representing plaintiffs and the makers of the hip system on March 12, to discuss the scheduling and preparation of early trial dates. The Court indicates that it anticipates having detailed scheduling orders in place for between 3 and 5 bellwether trials by the time of a status conference set for June 12, 2014, with the first trials ready to begin during the summer of 2015.

The parties have been ordered to meet and agree upon no fewer than three and no more than five different categories of cases, with three cases to be designated as lead cases in each category.

Before the June 12 status conference, attorneys have been asked to propose a scheduling order that will govern each of the lead bellwether cases in each category.

In addition to the federal litigation, at least 873 cases are pending in New Jersey state court and additional claims are pending in Florida state court.

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.

Judge Martinotti established a mediation process last year, in an attempt to see if Stryker Rejuvenate settlements may be reached early in the litigation. The parties have already agreed to resolve at least eight of the nine cases that have gone to mediation, and additional rounds of mediation are being scheduled.

“At an appropriate time, Magistrate Judge [Franklin L.] Noel will continue to reach out to the New Jersey and Florida state court judges to explore ways in which the three courts might facilitate a coordinated settlement of all of the state and federal cases in which plaintiffs allege they suffered injury from dual modular hip replacement prostheses sold under the names ‘Rejuvenate’ and ‘ABG II’,” wrote Judge Frank in the MDL order.

If pretrial settlement negotiations are not successful, a series of bellwether trials are commonly scheduled in complex medical device litigation to help the parties gauge the relative strengths and weaknesses of their cases. If the parties fail to resolve the litigation following a series of bellwether trials, Judge Frank may begin remanding hundreds of cases back to U.S. District Courts throughout the country for individual trial dates.

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