DePuy Pinnacle Metal-on-Metal Hip Implant Lawsuits Readied for Discovery

Lawsuits involving a metal-on-metal version of DePuy Orthopaedics’ Pinnacle hip replacement device continue to move forward, with the federal litigation in Texas heading towards the discovery phase.  About 1,800 lawsuits are currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas as part of the DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., Pinnacle Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation (MDL No. 2244).  

As we’ve reported previously, all of the lawsuits pending in the litigation allege the all-metal model of the DePuy Pinnacle hip replacement device caused metallosis and other injuries similar to those seen with other metal-on-metal hip implants, including DePuy’s recalled ASR hip implants.  The DePuy ASR hip replacements were named in worldwide recall in August 2010, and plaintiffs in the Pinnacle litigation assert the metal-on-metal Pinnacle implants should have been recalled as well.

The DePuy Pinnacle multidistrict litigation, which was established in May 2011, is being overseen by the Honorable James E. Kinkeade.  Last week during a status conference, Judge Kinkeade discussed issues pertaining to the litigation’s discovery phase, including scheduling details and the preservation of evidence.  Judge Kinkeade has not yet scheduled any bellwether trials, the outcomes of which will help gauge how juries might rule in similar cases.

The all-metal version of the DePuy Pinnacle litigation is only one of several metal-on-metal hip implants that have raised safety concerns in recent years.  Several studies have found that such devices can shed dangerous amounts of chromium and cobalt into patients’ bloodstreams, leading to a number of serious health problems, including  pain, swelling, and dislocation, as well as metallosis, a reaction that results in tissue and bone loss, the formation of pseudotumors, and long-term heart, kidney, nerve and thyroid problems. In June, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) revealed that it had received 16,800 negative event reports involving metal hips between 2000 and 2011. Of those, more than 14,000 involved revision surgeries, in which a defective implant was removed.  During a meeting of FDA advisors that same  month, the panel determined that there existed few good reasons for the continuing use of metal-on-metal hip implants.

Since the DePuy ASR hip implant recall, DePuy and other manufacturers have been named in lawsuits over their metal-on-metal hip replacement devices. In addition to the DePuy Pinnacle hip implant litigation, a multidistrict litigation has been established for DePuy ASR hip implant lawsuits in federal court in Ohio. Claims involving a metal-on-metal version of DePuy’s Pinnacle hip implant have been consolidated in a multidistrict litigation in Texas. In February, a multidistrict litigation was established in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia for lawsuits involving the all-metal Wright Conserve Hip Replacement System. Several lawsuits are also pending in the U.S. over Biomet metal-on-metal hip implants.

As we reported previously, some legal experts believe the all-metal Pinnacle device could turn out to be a much larger headache for the DePuy, and its parent, Johnson & Johnson, compared to the ASR debacle.  According to a recent Reuters report, only around 37,000 patients in the U.S. received an ASR hip implant device.   But some 150,000 have been fitted with a metal-on-metal Pinnacle implant. Should plaintiffs be successful in their Pinnacle lawsuits, Johnson & Johnson could end up paying nearly $5 billion just to cover patients’ revisions surgeries, Reuters said.

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