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1,800 DePuy Pinnacle Hip Implant Lawsuits Filed in Federal Litigation

Aug 16, 2012 | Parker Waichman LLP

The amount of lawsuits included in the DePuy Pinnacle hip implant Multidistrict Litigation has grown exponentially in the last few months.

According to a report, more than 1,800 lawsuits are now included in the MDL that's been centralized in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, where Judge James Kinkeade is presiding. The lawsuits all allege that the DePuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip implant and its component parts are defective and putting recipients at a significant risk of serious injury and lifelong medical care.

The MDL was only created in May 2011 and although the amount of lawsuits included in it initially was small, that number has grown several times over in recent months as more attention is given to the problems associated with it. The Pinnacle is close to joining DePuy Orthopaedics' other entry into the metal-on-metal hip implant market, the ASR model, which was recalled in late 2010 due to numerous defects that led recipients back to the surgeon's table far sooner than they expected to have revision and ultimately, replacement surgeries.

Metal-on-metal hip implants like the Pinnacle have numerous defects that put recipients at significant risk of serious injuries. Complete failures of the artificial joint can cause severe pain and inflammation at the site of the implant. This can lead to numerous and painful revision surgeries that often require more physical rehabilitation and increase medical expenses. The implants were touted as having a longer lifespan that traditional implants but have proven to have the opposite, often failing after just a few years - normally less than five - when they were supposed to last close to two decades.

All-metal implants also share a trademark defect, putting recipients at risk of metal poisoning. Through normal wear-and-tear of the devices, small metal fragments are shed off the implant and into the bloodstream and nearby tissue, muscles, and organs. Recipients of all-metal implants are likely to develop a toxic accumulation of the metals cobalt and chromium which, if left unchecked over time, can cause serious and some life-threatening complications, including muscle damage and organ system failure.

As more cases are added to the Pinnacle MDL, Judge Kinkeade has taken initial steps in scheduling the early phases of the litigation, including hearings to admit or deny evidence that would be used in any potential future trials. An MDL streamlines the pre-trial process and is often a preferred method for handling lawsuits which make similar claims against a singular product.

There has not been a date set for when the first of several bellwether trials could begin. Those initial trials will likely help resolve many of the complaints before they ever reach a jury. Based upon the results of those bellwether trials, either side of the case will determine if a settlement on the remaining claims is the best option rather than having the case heard before a jury.

DePuy has defended the safety record of Pinnacle hips despite the growing amount of lawsuits being added to the federal MDL. The company, according to the report, has said it will not offer settlements on any Pinnacle lawsuits.

About 150,000 people have been outfitted with the Pinnacle implant since it was first approved in 2000. Not all Pinnacle implants feature metal components. Some are made of other materials but the lawsuits included in the MDL focus solely on those who were fitted with an all-metal variety of the Pinnacle hip.

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