Hundreds of residents of the United Kingdom (U.K.) filed claims against DePuy for defective hip replacement implants. The metal-on-metal implants made by DePuy called the “Pinnacle Ultamet” failed well before they should have, leaving people suffering from terrible pain and requiring revision surgery. Now, claimants have asked the High Court in England to make DePuy pay damages for their failure to design and manufacture the replacement device properly.
Two juries in the U.S. have already awarded well over $1 billion for injuries caused by DePuy and Johnson & Johnson’s utterly callous marketing, manufacturing, and design scheme relative to the Pinnacle Ultamet implant. Plaintiffs in the U.K. could receive compensation for their injuries as well. However, DePuy denies any wrongdoing. It remains to be seen whether the two jury verdicts in the U.S. have any influence at all in the U.K. However, lawyers in the U.K. believe the lawsuit is one of the largest products liability lawsuits to be litigated ever in England.
Friction May Release Chromium and Cobalt into the Body
The plaintiffs in the U.K. argue that the metal-on-metal ball and socket joint is the cause of many health issues for them. The plaintiffs contend in court that the metal-on-metal joint wears down significantly within a short timeframe after implantation surgery. The friction between the chromium and cobalt in the metallic joint releases toxic particles into the tissue surrounding the ball and socket joint.
Symptoms and Side Effects
The release of these poisons into the bloodstream, muscle, and organs surrounding the replaced hip has induced numerous and severe side effects. Most people who have endured some level of toxicity experience symptoms such as:
- Difficulty walking,
- Pain and swelling,
- Death of the surrounding tissue (called necrosis),
- Numbness, and
- Loss of sensation in the affected leg.
The Primary Legal Question Concerning These New Hip Implant Claims
The primary legal question for the court to determine in the U.K. is whether DePuy met the safety expectations they were obligated to satisfy under English law. The plaintiffs will argue that DePuy should have manufactured a safer product after claiming that the metal-on-metal design would allow hip replacement patients to have greater mobility with, ostensibly, less recovery time than a traditional plastic-molded hip implant patient might experience after hip replacement surgery.
DePuy discontinued marketing the Pinnacle Ultamet hip replacement implant in 2013. The passage of time does not absolve DePuy of wrongdoing. In fact, other plaintiffs might come forward with additional claims against DePuy. About 50,000 people in the U.K. received a warning from a consumer affairs organization that DePuy’s metal-on-metal design for its hip implant is more toxic than once believed. Those 50,000-plus hip implant recipients must undergo x-rays and blood tests periodically because of the potentially toxic metals in the Pinnacle Ultamet implant. Some of the recipients might have to submit to additional medical testing depending upon their medical histories. Doctors expressed concerns that the friction in the metallic joint will poison their patients. Many patients could find themselves in the unenviable and unfortunate position of having revision surgery to replace the implant.
Toxic Metal Released Could Result in 1,000s of New Lawsuits
The toxicity of the muscle surrounding the joint leads to irrevocable damage, like the plaintiffs in the current lawsuit. If this problem persists, tens of thousands of additional plaintiffs might seek permission to sue DePuy for damages in addition to the 300 who have already filed. Muscle damage might occur without the patient experiencing any symptoms or side effects from the toxic metals invading their bodies. Therefore, it is imperative that everyone who received a Pinnacle implant in the U.K. undergoes the appropriate testing before it is too late. The same could be said for every American who received a Pinnacle implant.
High toxicity levels are a problem for both sexes but females in particular. Women who received the Pinnacle Ultamet implant must submit to annual examinations to determine whether their new joint is poisoning them. Physicians indicate that woman typically use a smaller joint implant device and, as a result, have a smaller margin of error. Men who are asymptomatic must have an exam every three years. However, a male who exhibits symptoms associated with metal debris in his system must have annual testing. To put it bluntly: no one can become accustomed to metal shavings and particles killing the tissue around the site.
The yearly testing will make it easier to perform the revision surgery — which is a practical inevitability. It is not a matter of “if,” but when. With advanced screens, doctors will understand how much dead tissue is present near the affected site and complete the necessary medical procedures to reduce the burden on the patient.
Hospitals in the U.K. received instructions not to use the Pinnacle Ultamet in hip replacement surgery in 2013. In 2013, the government issued a warning that a study of 17,000 implant patients showed that the revision rate was unacceptably high. The U.K. government prohibits using implants that have to be replaced within five years of the initial surgery.
The 2013 order came on the heels of recalls by DePuy in 2010 which removed 10,000 implants from the market. Those metal-on-metal hip implant devices were determined to be unsafe.
What Did DePuy Know?
There is evidence to suggest that DePuy knew, or at least should have known, that metal-on-metal implants were dangerous from studies completed in the mid-1980s. DePuy executives have the memorandum authored by an employee doctor warning DePuy’s executives that metal-on-metal implants are universally regarded as dangerous to implant recipients. DePuy continued to develop the metal-on-metal design notwithstanding the warnings the company received from one of its own researchers.
As with the case in the U.S., this litigation turns on whether DePuy took all reasonable steps to manufacture a safe product. Additionally, the plaintiffs must prove that DePuy used unlawful or deceptive marketing claims to convince the patients’ surgeons to use the Pinnacle Ultamet device.
Turn to Parker Waichman LLP for Representation for Your Pinnacle Ultamet Claim
The time to file a case in court is limited. Therefore, you must not delay in contacting Parker Waichman’s defective medical device lawyers to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation and discuss your claim. You may also use our convenient online form. Call Parker Waichman LLP today at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529) and speak with one of our Pinnacle Ultamet lawyers about your rights.