Wright Conserve Hip Lawsuit Set for Trial to Begin March 9

The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Wright Conserve hip replacement lawsuits has laid out the final schedule for pretrial motions and other proceedings leading up to the first bellwether test trial involving the metal-on-metal hip implant, which is set to begin on March 9 in Atlanta.

There are currently 400 product liability lawsuits pending in the federal court system involving individuals who experienced problems with a Wright Conserve Total Hip System, which features a metal-on-metal design that has been linked to reports of early failures and complications that typically arise within a few years after the artificial hip is implanted.

Since February 2012, Wright Conserve hip cases filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country have been centralized before U.S. District Judge William S. Duffey, Jr. in the Northern District of Georgia for coordinated proceedings as part of a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL).

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Given the similar factual and legal allegations raised in the lawsuits, the cases have been consolidated to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings, Judge Duffey previously established a “bellwether” program, where a small group of cases have been prepared for early trial dates to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.

According to a scheduling order (PDF) issued December 23, a final pretrial conference has been set for February 26, 2015, with trial of the first bellwether case scheduled to begin on March 9.

In anticipation of this trial date moving forward, Judge Duffey indicated that any dispositive motions must be filed by January 9, 2015, with Daubert challenges to the admissibility of expert witness testimony due by January 15 and any motions in limine to exclude certain evidence from the trial due by January 30, 2015.

While the outcome of this bellwether trial will not be binding on other Wright Conserve hip lawsuits, it will be closely watched by lawyers involved in the litigation, as it may facilitate further negotiations to settle claims and avoid the need for hundreds of individual cases to be filed in courts throughout the country.

Metal-on-Metal Hip Lawsuits and Settlements

All of the lawsuits involved in the Wright Conserve hip litigation raise similar allegations, claiming that the metal-on-metal hip design was defective and unreasonably dangerous, carrying a high risk of loosening and ultimately failing within a few years after it is implanted.

Most of the lawsuits claim that the Wright Conserve hip’s metal “ball” and “socket” bearings generate metal debris over time, which can spread to the surrounding bone and tissue. As a result of the defective design, individuals who receive the Wright Conserve may suffer unnecessary pain and suffering, debilitating lack of mobility, inflammation causing damage or death to surrounding tissue and bone, metallosis and toxicity.

In addition, the problems often result in more difficult revision surgery to replace the implant, causing additional pain and suffering, a prolonged recovery time and an increased risk of complications, according to the complaints.

The allegations are similar to those raised in other metal-on-metal hip lawsuits filed against other manufacturers that introduced artificial hip systems in recent years that feature a similar design.

While hip implants are typically expected to last 15 to 20 years, metal-on-metal hip implants have been found to carry an increased risk of failure within the first five to ten years.

More than 12,000 DePuy ASR hip lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson after their metal-on-metal implant was recalled in August 2010 amid higher-than-expected failure rates. Following several bellwether trials, the manufacturer agreed to pay more than $2.4 billion to settle the DePuy ASR litigation.

Similar lawsuits are pending against manufacturers of other metal-on-metal hip lawsuits, including the DePuy Pinnacle and Biomet Magnum.


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