On June 28, several plaintiffs who have federal lawsuits against metal-on-metal hip implant manufacturer Biomet requested that those cases be combined into multidistrict litigation in either California or New York. If successful, all federal lawsuits against Biomet for their hip implants will be grouped together in front of one judge.
MultiDistrict Litigation can best be described by its similarities to (and differences from) a class action lawsuit. Like class actions, many cases are combined into one massive supercase. One judge oversees all of those cases, and manages all of the discovery, motions and other court filings associated with the case. Unlike a class action, however, each lawsuit must be filed individually–if a victim does not file a lawsuit, his or her interests will not be protected. Also unlike a class action, the cases are merely grouped together for joint purposes like discovery and even settlement discussions. If those settlement discussions fail, the cases are tried on an individual basis–sometimes in the federal court to which they are sent (as bellwether, or “test” cases), or sent back to their home court for trial. A federal judge overseeing an MDL wields great influence on the parties, and the majority of these cases settle, including hopefully the metal-on-metal hip implant cases.
For the metal-on-metal hip implant cases, a few plaintiffs have requested that an MDL be formed. The defendants in those cases will now have an opportunity to respond, and to either oppose consolidation, or request that if consolidation happens, the cases be sent to a different federal court.
Hip implants were originally made of other materials, including ceramic. In the past few years, however, metal-on-metal implants (meaning that both the ball and the socket were composed of some type of metal) came in vogue. It wasn’t long, however, before doctors and patients started noticing problems with the implants. It is clear now that the implants have an extremely high failure rate, often requiring painful and expensive revision surgeries. Even worse, sometimes the metal components grind against each other, causing the metal to wear and releasing metal shavings into the tissue and bloodstream. That can cause a condition known as metallosis (metal poisoning), and can cause inflammation, infection, and even necrosis.
The majority of these implants are manufactured by Stryker Orthopaedics and Johnson & Johnson (through it’s company DePuy). Biomet, Zimmer, and Smith & Nephew all make some type of the metal-on-metal hip implants. Johnson & Johnson recently recalled some of its implants. Most orthopedic surgeons know to stop using these dangerous implants, and even the FDA is now aware of the dangers.
If you want more information on defective or recalled hip implants, contact our product liability attorneys at 443.850.4426, or online for a free consultation. We can review your medical records, determine which implant was used, and help you to determine if a lawsuit is the right choice.