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Wright Conserve Hip Lawsuit Results in $11M Jury Award in Bellwether Trial

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A federal jury has returned a verdict of $11 million in the first in a series of planned bellwether trials for Wright Conserve hip replacement lawsuits, including an award of $10 million in punitive damages designed to punish the manufacturer of the metal-on-metal hip system for recklessly disregarding the safety of consumers.

There are currently more than 530 product liability lawsuits pending throughout the federal court system involving allegations that patients experienced catastrophic hip failures with a Wright Conserve implant, alleging that the metal-on-metal design was unreasonably dangerous and defective.

The first planned Wright Conserve bellwether trial began earlier this month in Georgia, involving a complaint filed by Robyn Christiansen, which was selected as a representative case to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout a number of other cases.

Following two weeks of trial, the jury awarded $1 million in compensatory damages designed to reimburse Christiansen for her economic damages and pain and suffering. An additional $10 million in punitive damages was added onto the award due to the manufacturer’s gross negligence.

Each of the complaints involved in the Wright Conserve hip litigation raise similar allegations, indicating that the metal-on-metal hip causes microscopic debris to be released during normal daily activities, which may cause the implant to prematurely fail within a few years.

Although hip replacements are expected to last at least 15 to 20 years, Christiansen’s implant failed after only six years, resulting in the need for revision surgery to remove it in October 2012.

Since February 2012, all Wright Conserve cases filed throughout the federal court system have been centralized before U.S. District Judge William S. Duffey, Jr. in the Northern District of Georgia to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

As part of the coordinated proceedings, Judge Duffey 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.

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 Wright Conserve hip lawsuits and avoid the need for hundreds of individual cases to be filed in courts throughout the country.

Similar allegations were raised in nearly 12,000 DePuy ASR hip lawsuits were filed against Johnson & Johnson after their metal-on-metal implant was recalled in August 2010. Following several bellwether trials, the manufacturer ultimately agreed to pay more than $2.4 billion to settle the DePuy ASR litigation.

Other metal-on-metal hip replacement lawsuits have also been filed over similar designs, including the DePuy Pinnacle, Biomet Magnum and others.

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