Multidistrict Litigation Created for Smith & Nephew Hip Cases

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Public Health Watchdog Breaking News
Public Health Watchdog Breaking News

The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has created a new multidistrict litigation (MDL) for cases involving Smith & Nephew’s Birmingham Hip Resurfacing Hip system devices.

U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake in the District of Maryland will hear 28 actions from 19 districts, plus 11 related cases pending in 11 other district courts.

The cases in the MDL involve product-liability claims relating to components of the Birmingham Hip Resurfacing (BHR) system, the R3 acetabular system, or some combination of a BHR component and other hip implant components.

The attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP are knowledgeable in the latest developments in hip replacement device litigation and can answer questions about filing a hip device lawsuit.

Hip Replacement

Patients have hip replacement to address conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, congenital defects, and injuries. Hip replacement surgery can relieve chronic pain and restore mobility, allowing the patient to continue working in a physically demanding profession or participating in sports and leisure activities like tennis, running and skiing.

But when a hip device fails, the recipient can suffer pain, loosening of the implant, difficulty walking, tissue death, deterioration of the bone around the implant, cysts and pseudotumors. Metal-on-metal hip devices like the Smith & Nephew hips came to market with the promise of greater durability and shorter recovery time compared to older hip implant devices made from materials like ceramic or plastic. Device manufacturers believed all-metal devices would last longer than previous device designs did.

Durability is an important factor in choosing a hip replacement, especially for younger hip recipients. Older hip designs typically last about 15 years, meaning that people who have a hip replacement in their forties or fifties might need to undergo the procedure two or even three more times in their life. A more durable hip system lengthens the interval between hip replacements.

Unfortunately, metal-on-metal hip devices have not met the expectations and many people who received those hips faced pain and complications, including early failure of the device.

Revision surgery can be difficult for both the surgeon and the patient. The patient is undergoing a major procedure again, with the risk infection, blood clots, and allergic reactions to medications. After revision surgery, the patient faces a substantial recovery period, with extensive physical therapy to rebuild strength and regain range of motion. Revision surgery also presents a challenge for the surgeon, who has to work with a joint that has likely been damaged by the failed implant. The final results of revision surgery are often less successful than the original surgery and the patient can be left with chronic pain and reduced mobility.

Smith & Nephew Litigation

Smith & Nephew has faced litigation involving its hip implants since 2010. There are 34 BHR actions pending in 25 district courts across the country.

The lawsuits share factual questions concerning the design, manufacture, marketing or performance of Smith & Nephew’s BHR system. The lawsuits focus on complications arising from the cobalt-chromium alloy used in the BHR components. When the metal components of the hip rub against each other during movement, the device can release microscopic metallic debris into the bloodstream and the surrounding tissue.  The hip itself can wear and become unstable. Plaintiffs allege that they have suffered pain, local tissue reaction, pseudotumors, bone and tissue death, metallosis, and other symptoms. The plaintiffs often require revision surgery to remove and replace the failed device.

Smith & Nephew opposed the formation of an MDL. Further, the company argued that the primary dispute in the BHR actions is whether plaintiffs’ claims are preempted by federal law. (Under the doctrine of preemption, federal law preempts state law, even when the laws conflict.)

“We suspect that the preemption analysis will be more similar from case to case than Smith & Nephew suggests. The same preemption analysis will be conducted in each action, and state tort laws that share similar elements can be grouped together for analysis. To the extent these actions survive Smith & Nephew’s preemption challenges, discovery is likely to be complex, expert-intensive, and will benefit from centralization,” the federal panel said.

The JPMDL called Judge Blake “an experienced MDL judge with the willingness and ability to manage this litigation efficiently. She is well situated to structure this litigation so as to minimize delay and avoid unnecessary duplication of discovery and motion practice.” Making the pretrial process more efficient is a major reason for consolidating cases in an MDL.

Smith & Nephew Hip Recall

Smith & Nephew recently admitted for the first time that the its Modular SMF and Modular REDAPT hip systems cause toxic metallosis in patients. The device maker has recalled 6,266 SMF and REDAPT hip systems in commerce, plus 13,671 modular neck hip prostheses in commerce. The devices shipped from October 2008 through July 2016.

The company has sold these hip systems for almost a decade. According to its letter to surgeons, “Smith & Nephew considers that patients implanted with the modular neck hip prostheses may be at greater risk of revision surgery than with comparable monolithic products.”

Help for Those Injured by a Smith & Nephew Hip Device

Parker Waichman LLP has long represented clients in hip replacement lawsuits. If you have needed revision surgery or have suffered other adverse effects from a Smith & Nephew or other metal-on-metal hip implant, contact the firm by filling out the contact form or by calling 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).