Zimmer NexGen Knee Cases Selected for Bellwether Trials in 2015

The first Zimmer NexGen knee replacement lawsuits are moving closer to trial, as the judge presiding over the litigation identified a list of six bellwether cases that will be eligible for early trial dates in the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL).

There are currently more than 1,300 product liability lawsuits filed throughout the country involving problems with Zimmer NexGen knee implants, which involve similar allegations that certain components are defective and prone to fail.

In August 2011, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML)  consolidated all federal Zimmer NexGen knee cases pending in U.S. District Courts throughout the country, centralizing the litigation before Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer in the Northern District of Illinois to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

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As part of the coordinated proceedings, a small group of cases are being prepared for early trial dates, known as “bellwether” cases. The preparation and outcome of these bellwether trials are designed to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation.

On Monday, plaintiffs’ attorneys and attorneys for Zimmer met before a Judge Pallmeyer to discuss competing proposals regarding bellwether case selections, which were submitted to the Court on February 7.

In an Order (PDF) issued on March 24, Judge Pallmeyer identified six cases that will be part of the “initial tranche” of Zimmer NexGen bellwether trials, which are expected to begin in 2015. Among the cases selected are three plaintiffs’ picks, including lawsuits filed by Ramona Diano, Kathy Batty and Randy Pudwill. Selections made by Zimmer include lawsuits filed by Debra Teague, Mertha Shoat and Ronnie Davis.

The Zimmer NexGen system was first introduced in 1995, with most components later approved without extensive trials or FDA investigation into their safety through the 510K fast-track approval program, which only requires that devices be “substantially equivalent” to medical devices already on the market to obtain marketing approval.

All of the complaints involve similar allegations that certain configurations of the Zimmer NexGen artificial knee system are defective and prone to fail within a few years. Plaintiffs claim that they experienced problems with various Zimmer knee replacements, including the Zimmer NexGen LPS-Flex, Zimmer NexGen CR-Flex, Zimmer NexGen GSF LPS-Flex, Zimmer NexGen GSF CR-Flex and Zimmer NexGen MIS Tibia component.

Each of the selections are designed to be representative of other cases pending in the litigation, allowing the parties to determine the relative strengths and weaknesses of their cases and potentially reach Zimmer NexGen settlements in other cases following the bellwether trials.

The next status conference in the MDL is set for May 16, at which time theCourt is expected to discuss the scheduling and length of the first trials.

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