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Jury Awards $11 Million to Defective Hip Implant Victim in Bellwether Trial

Jurors overseeing the bellwether case involving Wright Medical’s Conserve Plus metal-on-metal hip implant in a federal case in Georgia have decided in favor of plaintiff for $11 million. That award, granted to a retired ski instructor, allows for $1 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages.gavel1

The former is intended to compensate the victims for actual losses, while the latter is supposed to punish defendant for an egregious violation.

This was an important decision because it was the first trial in a multi-district litigation pending before the Atlanta-based court. There are 440 other cases similar to this one pending before U.S. District Judge Bill Duffey. In addition to those, there are hundreds more pending against the same defendant in a state court in California.

Plaintiff’s case was one of 10 selected on a mediation-then-trial track. When mediation in several of the cases failed, the court selected her case to go first. The case is referred to as In re: Wright Medical Technology, Inc., Conserve Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation.

During the two-week trial, which concluded Nov. 24, 2015 after two days of deliberation, jurors heard evidence of plaintiff’s ordeal. A 73-year-old children’s ski instructor who had taught for 50 years underwent a total knee replacement in the spring of 2006. It was defendant Wright Medical’s device. But just six years later, the device started to fail, and plaintiff endured severe pain. She and her doctor believed it was an issue of a loose component.

Her doctors gave her no choice but to undergo revision surgery to remove the device. In the midst of the operation, the surgeon discovered a large pool of fluid build-up. There was also clear evidence of tissue necrosis and metallosis (metal poisoning from the breakdown of metal-on-metal implants). The surgeon was forced to remove large sections of soft tissue that had been damaged by the flaking metal debris.

The recovery plaintiff endured was extremely arduous, and she never fully regained her mobility. She is unable to engage in the things she once deeply enjoyed, such as hiking, water-skiing and snow-skiing.

Plaintiff, who asserted claims of strict product liability, negligence and fraudulent misrepresentation, succeeded despite the fact that just prior to trial, Duffey limited evidence she could present. She was not allowed to note previous lawsuits against the company, discuss the firm’s knowledge of the alleged defect after her 2006 attorney and certain portions of her doctor’s testimony was off-limits as well.

She was still allowed to show the company received numerous complaints about alleged defects in the product, and thus had a responsibility to notify her of the potential for developing metallosis before she received the implant.

With regard to the doctor’s testimony, he was allowed to testify about other corrective surgeries he had performed on other individuals who had been implanted with the Conserve hip system. However, he was barred from discussing revision surgeries on patients with metal-on-metal hip replacements in general.

Defense too was limited to some extent. For example, it could not argue that an award of punitive damages might stifle medical innovation or general development of medical devices.

Our experienced product liability attorneys understand the complexity of these cases, and encourage all those who have had to undergo revision surgery for a replacement hip or knee to contact our law firm as soon as possible.

If you are the victim of Massachusetts product liability, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Atlanta Jury Awards $11 Million Verdict in Hip Implant Case, Nov. 27, 2015, Atlanta Journal Constitution

More Blog Entries:

New Total Knee Replacement Technology Helps Surgeons and Patients Alike, Nov. 25, 2015, Boston Hip Replacement Lawyer Blog