The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) heard oral arguments last week regarding the proposed consolidation of all Biomet M2A Magnum metal-on-metal hip implant lawsuits as a multidistrict litigation. Plaintiffs pushing for the Biomet M2A Magnum hip implant consolidation point to the fact that multidistrict litigations have been established for metal-on-metal hip implant lawsuits involving DePuy ASR hip implants, DePuy Pinnacle hip implants, and the Zimmer Durom Cup implants have all been. However, Biomet contends that the M2A Magnum lawsuits now pending in federal courts around the country are too different from one another to benefit from coordinated proceedings.
Metal-on-Metal hip implants, including the Biomet M2A Magnum hip replacement, have been named in a growing number of lawsuits amid concerns that the devices can shed dangerous amounts of metal debris in patients, leading to premature implant failure, adverse local tissue reactions, metallosis, pseudotumor formation and other long-term health problems. Last May, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) ordered 21 manufacturers of metal-on-metal hip replacements, including Biomet, to conduct post-market studies of their products to determine if they were putting patients at risk.
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. Over the summer, a panel of FDA determined that there existed few good reasons for the continuing use of metal-on-metal hip implants. In 2011, the Australian National Joint Registry reported that patients implanted with the Biomet M2A Magnum had an unacceptably high yearly revision rate of 7.2 percent.
Plaintiffs who have filed Biomet M2A Magnum hip replacement lawsuits petitioned the JPML for consolidation in June. At the time the petition was filed, more than three dozen Biomet M2A Magnum hip implant lawsuits were pending in various federal courts throughout the country. All of the complaints involve similar allegations that Biomet failed to warn patients about the risks associated with the microscopic metal debris that is released from the artificial hip replacement as the metal parts rub against each other. Plaintiffs have proposed the Northern District of California as the most appropriate jurisdiction, with the Southern District of New York as an alternate proposal. While Biomet opposes any consolidation, it has suggested the District of New Jersey or Southern District of New York if a multidistrict litigation is established.
A number of metal-on-metal hip implant manufacturers are already facing massive litigations over their devices. DePuy Orthopeadics, which in August 2010 recalled its ASR Hip Resurfacing System and ASR Acetabular System, has been named in thousands of such lawsuits, most of which are pending in a multidistrict litigation in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio. DePuy also faces a large multidistrict litigation over an all-metal version of its Pinnacle hip implant in U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas. Just this past February, a multidistrict litigation was established in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia for lawsuits involving the all-metal Wright Conserve Hip Replacement System. Lawsuits involving Zimmer’s Durom Cup are pending in U.S. District Court in New Jersey.
A multidistrict litigation allows lawsuits associated with a particular product to be coordinated under one judge for pretrial litigation to avoid duplicative discovery, inconsistent rulings and to conserve the resources of the parties, witnesses and the court. When lawsuits are consolidated as a multidistrict litigation, each retains its own identity. If the multidistrict litigation process does not resolve the cases, they are transferred back to the court where they originated for trial.