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DePuy Hip Implant Lawsuits Just Keep Coming

Jul 8, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP

Lawsuits against DePuy over their metal-on-metal hip implant devices increase as more plaintiffs step forward claiming the ASR hip implant caused them to suffer from numerous injuries.  The Johnson & Johnson unit faces over 1,000 suits in both federal and state court claiming DePuy knew of the problems with the device.

A majority of the plaintiffs contend in 2007, DePuy was warned about the high rates of failure and complications associated with the ASR hip implant systems through an Australian medical-device registry which tracks patient complaints, reported the Wall Street Journal.   If the company knew of the problem in 2007 and did not immediately recall the product, DePuy could perhaps face punitive damages, said John Coffee, a Columbia University law professor.

However, a spokeswoman for DePuy said although they use the Australian database to track the safety of their products, subsequent information from a British registry prompted them to recall the parts.

Many of the plaintiffs also claim the device caused them to suffer from infection and inflammation.  In 2006, Lavonne Gordon received two DePuy implants and ever since, her medical tests revealed high levels of chromium and cobalt in her blood.  Gordon sued the company and claims the device gave her “weird problems” such as urinary tract infections and fevers, reported the Journal.

A panel of federal judges has consolidated many of the suits in federal court in Ohio.  Several plaintiffs are seeking class certification arguing their claims are similar to other cases.  The plaintiffs allege the hip implant was defective, causing them to require revision surgery and suffer from various health complications.  Some plaintiffs say the metal components of the implant shed into their bloodstreams and subsequent blood tests revealed elevated levels of metals.

A Wells Fargo analyst predicts the litigation could expose DePuy to over $1 billion in potential liability and other costs, reported the Journal.

In 2010, DePuy issued a worldwide voluntary recall of the ASR implant after the National Joint Registry of England and Wales reported 1 out of 8 implant patients (12%-13%) required revision surgery.  Unlike the average hip implant which is estimated to last fifteen years, DePuy ASR implant recipients needed surgery within five years of receiving the device. 

The company estimates more than 93,000 patients worldwide were fitted with the implant and one-third are U.S. patients.  DePuy will cover the cost of all medical care associated with the device, including replacement surgery, says the Journal.

The company also faces lawsuits over the Pinnacle implant, which is still on the market.  In May 2011, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated all product liability lawsuits over the device.  The DePuy spokeswoman said the company stands behind the product, calling it “one of the most widely used and clinically successful” hip implant devices on the market, reported the Journal. 

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