Timetable in Place for U.K. Metal-on-Metal Hip Litigation Trial in 2017

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Lawyers representing more than 600 people in the U.K. injured by early failure of metal-on-metal hip implants were in court recently for a hearing.

In one of the largest product liability group actions in the U.K. in recent years, lawyers for the injured parties in metal-on-metal hip group actions and legal representatives for major hip manufacturers including Smith & Nephew, Zimmer, Corin Cormet and DePuy Synthes (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson), Lexology reports.

The hearing was convened to set a pretrial process to ensure the efficient use of court resources while also giving claimants timely access to justice. In November 2015, the court ruled that the two largest group actions—the Pinnacle Ultamet THR and the Corin Cormet THR and resurfacing devices—should progress to trial. The court reserved a trial window beginning October 9, 2017. The court set a strict timetable to bring the Pinnacle and Corin cases to trial in October 2017.

The court directed other metal-on-metal device litigation to be placed on hold until the Pinnacle/Corin trial is completed, Lexology reports. The outcome of Pinnacle/Corin trial will not be binding on other metal-on-metal cases, but it could provide an indication of the merits of other cases and could hasten settlement discussions in other cases.

With thousands of reports of injuries and complications linked to hip replacement devices, metal-on-metal hip devices have been the focus of regulatory action and lawsuits worldwide. Both the ball and the cup of a metal-on-metal hip are metal and when these components rub together during normal movement, they release metal debris into the bloodstream. In reports to health regulatory agencies and in lawsuits, recipients allege that the devices cause painful complications, including difficulty standing or walking; loosening of the hip implant; pain that radiates to the groin and back; tissue death; bone and soft tissue damage; and metal poisoning.

Metal-on-metal hip devices came to market with the promise that the all-metal construction would prove more durable than older hip designs. All-metal hips were promoted as a better choice for younger hip recipients who wanted to continue to lead an active life. Hip implants usually last about 15 years, so younger recipients might need two or even three hip replacements in their lifetime. Doctors and patients sought a more durable hip device. Unfortunately, metal-on-metal hip implants have not lived up to expectations. They have been prone to early failure and complications, leading to revision surgery to remove and replace failed implants within just a few years of the original surgery.

Many metal-on-metal hip devices have been subjected to recalls or manufacturers have  removed them from the market. Health regulators in the U.S., Europe, India, Australia, and Canada have all issued safety warnings to patients and guidelines to doctors advising them to regularly monitor patients for signs of device failure and metal poisoning.