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Jury Awards $11 Million in Damages in First Bellwether Trial for Wright Medical Conserve Hip Device

Dec 1, 2015

In the first federal bellwether trial over the Wright Conserve metal hip implant, the jury awarded $11 million in damages to the plaintiff. Court documents reveal that a Georgia jury returned the $11 million verdict against Wright Medical Technology, maker of the hip device. The award consists of $1 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages. More than 500 similar lawsuits are pending in a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL).

Court records indicate that the two-week trial concluded on November 24, 2015. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a woman who was implanted with the Conserve hip, a metal-on-metal hip replacement device, in 2006. She was subsequently diagnosed with a loosened and displaced acetabular cup and she underwent additional surgery in 2012. The lawsuit alleged that during that surgery, the surgeon discovered signs of metallosis (metal poisoning), which was causing soft tissue damage. The lawsuit alleges the device was defectively designed and that the company failed to warn surgeons and patients about the risks.

In the more than 500 similar lawsuits pending in the federal MDL, plaintiffs allege that the metal-on-metal design of the Wright hip implant devices caused complications such as pain, swelling, device loosening, tissue damage, metallosis, hip dislocation, and other injuries. A number of recipients of these hips underwent revision surgery to remove the failed implant and replace it with a different device. Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against makers metal hip device makers, including Johnson & Johnson's DePuy Orthopaedics and Stryker Orthopaedics.

Metal-on-metal hip implants like the Wright Conserve hip have come under increasing scrutiny because of mounting injury reports and growing evidence in the medical literature of the risk of adverse reactions. Serious complications can arise when the metal surfaces of the hip implant rub together during normal activities, such as walking.

A bellwether trial is one in which the plaintiff's claims are similar to claims brought by a number of other plaintiffs. To manage a large caseload of similar cases, the parties choose a group of plaintiffs to represent all the plaintiffs. The representative cases go to trial and the results of the bellwether cases can indicate trends in the litigation. Bellwether cases often provide the basis for reaching a settlement in other cases. The verdict in the Georgia could have "a powerful impact on the remaining cases," according to an attorney involved in metal-on-metal hip device litigation.

Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against Wright Medical over its Profemur Hip Replacement System. The first Profemur trial concluded in June 2015 with a $4.5 million award to the plaintiffs by a California jury, which found that the hip implant was designed defectively. That award consisted of $4 million for past and future pain and suffering, and $500,000 awarded to the plaintiff's wife.

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