October 2017 Trial Expected in British Metal-on-Metal Hip Litigation

In one of Britain’s largest product liability group actions in recent years, lawyers for more than 600 individuals injured by early failure of metal-on-metal hip implants were in court recently for a hearing.

The lawyers for the plaintiffs in a number of metal-on-metal group actions met with legal representatives for major hip manufacturers including Smith & Nephew, Zimmer, Corin Cormet and DePuy Synthes (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson).

The hearing was convened to determine a case management structure that would ensure the efficient use of court resources while affording claimants swift access to justice in the large number of metal-on-metal actions. In November 2015, the court ruled that the two largest group actions, those involving the Pinnacle Ultamet THR and the Corin Cormet THR and resurfacing devices, should progress to trial. The court reserved a trial window beginning October 9, 2017 for the Pinnacle/Corin trial.

The court said other metal-on-metal device litigation should be put on hold until the Pinnacle/Corin trial is completed, Lexology reports. Though the outcome of the Pinnacle/Corin trial would not be binding on other metal-on-metal cases, it would provide an indication of the merits of their cases and could hasten settlement discussions in other cases.

The court set up a strict timetable to bring the Pinnacle and Corin cases to trial in October 2017.

In recent years, metal-on-metal hip devices have been the focus of regulatory action and lawsuits worldwide. Recipients of these hip replacement allege that the devices cause painful complications that include difficulty standing or walking; loosening of the hip implant; pain that radiates to the groin and back; tissue death; bone and soft tissue damage; and metal poisoning, caused by the metal components of the device releasing metal debris into the bloodstream as the hip components rub together during normal movement.

When metal-on-metal hip devices first came to market, they were promoted as more durable than older hip devices and better suited for younger hip replacement patients who want to remain active, even athletic. Hip implants typically last about 15 years, meaning that, depending on age at hip replacement, a recipient might have to undergo hip replacement two or even three times. Patients and doctors expected metal-on-metal devices to have a longer useful life, but metal-on-metal hip implants have not lived up to expectations. They have been prone to early failure and complications, leading to revision surgery to remove and replace failed implants within just a few years of the original surgery.

Like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, health regulators in Europe, India, Australia, and Canada have all issued safety warnings to patients and guidelines for doctors to monitor patients for device failure and metal poisoning.

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