MDL Panel Schedules Hearing Over Wright Hip Lawsuit Consolidation

A federal panel of judges is scheduled to hear arguments later this month on whether to consolidate all Wright Conserve hip lawsuits, which have been filed by individuals who experienced problems with the metal-on-metal hip implant system. 

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is scheduled to meet on January 26 in Miami, Florida. According to the agenda posted for the hearing, the panel will consider whether all Wright hip lawsuits should be centralized before one judge for pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.

To date, five product liability lawsuits have been filed by plaintiffs in federal courts nationwide, claiming that Wright Medical Technology manufactured a defective hip implant, the Conserve Plus, and failed to warn patients of the potential risk that the device may fail within a few years of surgery.

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According to a motion filed in November to consolidate the Wright hip replacement litigation, one of the plaintiffs has requested that all current and future Wright Conserve cases be transferred to the Southern District of Georgia or the Northern District of Georgia for coordinated handling during discovery and pretrial motions.

The motion suggests that all of the lawsuits involve allegations of design defects with the Conserve acetabular cup, which some plaintiffs claim has a tendency to loosen and fail as metal particles are shed into the body from the metal parts rubbing against each other.

If the panel agrees to consolidate the claims, they would be placed under one judge for pretrial proceeding in order to prevent duplicative discovery and contradictory pretrial rulings by different judges. However, consolidation has been opposed by Wright Medical and at least one other plaintiff. 

Wright Medical has argued that only a limited number of cases have been filed, providing no additional convenience for the defendant, plaintiffs or courts through the creation of an MDL.

Instead, Wright Medical argues that the attempt to consolidate the lawsuits was made as an effort to advertise for more claims. Wright Medical said that several of the five cases do not appear to involve the Conserve hip implant series. They also point out that the cases sometimes involve different reasons for the hip implant failures. 

At least one other plaintiff with a pending case has opposed consolidation, arguing that the cases do not all involve common questions of fact.

Since the FDA approved the Wright metal-on-metal hip replacement system under their controversial 510(k) approval system, more than 200 adverse event reports have been submitted by patients or physicians, which likely only represents 1% to 10% of the total number of problems with Wright Conserve hip replacements.

The Wright Conserve hip system is a metal-on-metal design, which consists of cast cobalt chromium molybdenum that provides the receptacle for the cobalt chromium molybdenum femoral head. The metal femoral head rotates within the metal monoblock Conserve Cup, which does not have a liner, resulting in the release of metal particles that can cause metal toxicity in the blood, soft tissue and bone. This can result in metallosis, tissue necrosis, pseudotumors and other problems, according to the complaints.


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