In the Northern District of Texas, five lawsuits have been consolidated in a bellwether trial to determine if the DePuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip implant is to blame for plaintiff injuries. The trial has been proceeding for weeks, with federal Judge Ed Kinkeade presiding. Bellwether cases are the first of their kind to go to trial. The outcome of bellwether trials can indicate how future lawsuits will proceed. In this case, five plaintiffs allege DePuy Orthopaedics failed to warn that the Pinnacle could cause problems such as pain, implant loosening, tissue damage and metal poisoning.
As the name suggests, metal-on-metal hip implants consist of all-metal surfaces. When they first hit the market they were touted as being more durable and better suited for younger, more active patients. In recent years, however, the safety of metal-on-metal hip replacements has been called into question. Concerns peaked in 2010, when DePuy recalled its ASR hip devices worldwide due to high failure rates. Thousands of lawsuits were filed around the globe and DePuy opened a settlement program in 2013 to compensate plaintiffs.
The concern with metal-on-metal hip implants is shedding of metal debris when the surfaces of the implant rub together. Regulators have advised metal ion testing in some patients to determine whether the implant has failed.
The most recent defense witness to take the stand was Leanne Turner, a DePuy project engineer who worked on Pinnacle product development. Her testimony lasted the entire day, court documents indicate. The defendants filed a motion to bar evidence, argument or questioning based on a theory that the defendants withheld information from or defrauded the FDA. The court allowed questioning.