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Bellwether Trial Nets $11 Million for Plaintiff

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Atlanta, GAUpdate: 4.5.16: Further to the 2015 award of $11 million to plaintiff Robyn Christiansen, in her bellweather defective products lawsuit against Wright Medical Technology, a decision made in early April 2016 will reduce the punitive damages award from $10 million to $1.1 million. The court let stand the $1 million award for compensatory damages.

A jury had awarded $11 million to the plaintiff in a bellwether hip implant lawsuit. The lawsuit alleged the Wright Conserve Hip Implant Systems Christiansen was given was defective.

According to reports, Christiansen received the hip implant in April 2006. The Wright Conserve Hip Implant is a metal-on-metal hip implant, marketed as being superior to alternate hip implant devices. In 2012, Christiansen reportedly experienced severe pain in her hip while exercising. During surgery to repair what was thought to be a loose component, Christiansen’s doctor discovered Christiansen had soft tissue damage caused by metal debris from the hip implant.

Christiansen was a former ski instructor and argued in her lawsuit that the damage caused by the defective hip implant limited her ability to enjoy her favorite activities. Her lawsuit was the first federal bellwether case to go to trial, although Wright has previously faced a plaintiff in court, however. As Gordon Gibb reported for LawyersandSettlements, Alan Warner’s lawsuit, filed in California state court, went to trial earlier in 2015 and resulted in an award of $4.5 million for the plaintiff.

According to documents from the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, as of November 15, 2015, there were 540 lawsuits consolidated for pretrial proceedings in MDL 2329 before Judge William Duffey. Other manufacturers also face claims of hip implant problems, including Stryker, Zimmer and DePuy Orthopaedics.

As of November 15, there were 4,493 lawsuits consolidated for pretrial proceedings in MDL 2197 concerning DePuy’s ASR Hip Implants, before Judge David Katz. Meanwhile, 1,976 lawsuits sit in MDL 2441 (In Re: Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG II Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation), and around 400 lawsuits sit in the Zimmer Durom Hip Cup MDL (MDL-2158).

Lawsuits filed against the makers of metal-on-metal hip replacement devices allege the devices are defectively designed. Specifically, they claim that metal debris can wear off the hip joint over time and become absorbed by surrounding tissue causing tissue damage and metallosis. Many of the metal-on-metal hip implant devices were marketed as being more durable than other hip implants, making them more suitable for active patients.

When the implants fail, patients may require revision surgery to replace their replacement hips. Revision surgeries tend to be more complicated than the original hip replacement surgery and involve longer recovery times.

Bellwether cases are undertaken to allow the plaintiffs and defense insight into what a reasonable jury will award. Usually multiple bellwether trials are heard before sides make decisions about their likelihood of success.


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