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Woman waiting for Depuy ASR revision surgery
Behind every metal-on-metal (MoM) artificial hip that fails, there is a person and a story. Artificial hip manufacturers may see only a faceless crowd of victims. These defendant companies may attempt to resolve the claims in bulk and move on to market the next blockbuster medical device. But in that crowd of plaintiffs are thousands of individuals uniquely injured by a product that was implanted in their bodies. The product failure often requires revision surgery, and the injuries that result from the artificial hip failures change lives forever: accomplished tennis players no longer play tennis; couples no longer travel or walk together on a beach; others have to resign from jobs they love because they cannot sit a desk for any length of time. Each of these people has a unique story to tell.

In the next three posts, I will share one woman’s story. “Suzanne” [not her real name] received the Depuy ASR MoM artificial hip in 2006 after years of pain from arthritis. The ASR hip was recalled in 2010, and Suzanne was forced to undergo revision surgery in 2011. This is her story:

Part 1

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Last Thursday a jury in Chicago found that AbbVie, Inc., the manufacturers of the testosterone product Androgel, must pay the plaintiff, Jeffrey Konrad, over $140,000,000.00 for injuries he suffered after using the company’s testosterone product. The jury found that AbbVie did not adequately test the testosterone roll-on gel product and misrepresented its safety to patients and doctors.

The Second Testosterone Bellwether Trial

Testosterone MDL in ChicagoMr. Konrad was in his late forties when he began using Androgel in 2010. He was prescribed testosterone to treat a decrease in his testosterone levels. Two months later he suffered a heart attack. He filed suit years later, alleging that AbbVie knew about the link between testosterone use and heart attacks but sold the product anyway, and without sufficient warnings. The jury did not find that Mr. Konrad proved the connection between his use of Androgel and his heart attack. Other factors, such as Mr. Konrad’s obesity, high blood pressure, and family history, could have caused his heart attack. Nevertheless, the jury found that AbbVie was liable for damages based on AbbVie’s negligence and misrepresentation.

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Hydrocodone, Opioid Epidemic
I blogged previously about the United States opioid crisis and how many local and state governments were looking to the courts to help deal with it. Specifically, these governments have brought lawsuits against manufacturers and distributors of opioids.

When we last wrote about the opioid crisis, I explained how these lawsuits had only just begun. The following post is an update on how these lawsuits are progressing. But before we get to that, let’s discuss why opioids are generating these lawsuits.

The Legal Basis for Suing Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors

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One of the few individuals to lose a case against Depuy Orthopaedics and Johnson & Johnson in a case involving the Depuy ASR MoM artificial hip has been awarded a new trial.

Strum Depuy ASR TrialIn 2013, a Chicago jury found that Depuy was not responsible for Ms. Strum’s injuries following the failure of the ASR hip. The jury found that the hip components manufactured by Depuy Orthopaedics did not cause the injuries to the plaintiff. Ms. Strum had sued DePuy in Chicago in 2011, alleging that the DePuy ASR implanted in January 2008 failed and required painful revision surgery. She also claimed that she suffered from metallosis.

On September 19, 2017, Judge Mary Dooling in Chicago granted Ms. Strum a new trial on the grounds that a surgeon and joint replacement scientist was unfairly prevented from testifying on behalf of the plaintiff in the original trial.

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Depuy ASR Settlement Deadlines
I get calls from people all over the country worried that they may have missed a deadline for participation in the Depuy ASR Artificial Hip Settlement. I understand the alarm. It would be dreadful to have the ASR metal-on-metal hip implanted, suffer mysterious pains and then elevated metal levels in the blood, discover the artificial hip components failed, go through a painful revision surgery, and then find that the settlement deadlines have all passed. The reality is this: at the moment, all the deadlines have passed. But many viable ASR claims against Depuy and Johnson & Johnson are still out there, and they should be fairly compensated like all the injured people that have come before.

Third Settlement (Second Extension)

In the most recent extension of the ASR Master Settlement Agreement, the deadline to enroll in the settlement was July 19, 2017. This second extension of the Master Settlement applied to individuals who had the ASR hip removed in revision surgery between between January 31, 2015 and February 15, 2017. The reason for this specific set of dates is that the settlement committees for plaintiffs and defendants wanted to include victims who had revision surgery somewhat late in the game. Recall that the Depuy ASR hip was first sold in 2005, twelve years ago. It was sold aggressively for five years, until it was finally recalled on August 24, 2010. Thousands of people were implanted with the ASR hip in that five-year period. Most of them were forced to undergo revision surgery before August 31, 2013, the deadline for participation in the first settlement. But hundreds of people did not undergo revision surgery until after August 31, 2013. Therefore, a first and then a second extension of the original agreement was established.

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Some of my clients have been asking me what is going on with the fourth Depuy Pinnacle bellwether trial. Non-clients have also been calling to inquire about the status of the trial. Did it start this week? Was it postponed? What is the deal with Depuy and Johnson & Johnson trying to stop the trial? Let’s take a quick look:

Fourth Bellwether Trial Underway 

Depuy Pinnacle MDL in Texas
The short answer is yes, the fourth bellwether trial began on Monday (September 18, 2017). Six plaintiffs injured by the Depuy Pinnacle hip (and four spouses) are bringing their claims against defendants in Dallas, Texas before Judge Kinkeade. You can read about previous Pinnacle bellwether trials and their huge jury awards here and here.

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Medical device and prescription drug jury verdicts come rapid fire, with a few cases being tried at any given moment across the country. Below is a recap on three recent jury verdicts involving Ethicon pelvic mesh, the blood-thinning drug Xarelto, and the testosterone drug Androgel.

Pelvic Mesh (September 7, 2017)

Pelvic Mesh
Last week a Philadelphia jury awarded a seriously injured woman $57.1 million in damages caused by defective Ethicon TVT pelvic mesh. This was the largest verdict for a pelvic mesh lawsuit against Ethicon, Inc. and Johnson & Johnson (the parent company of Ethicon). The award included $7.1 million in compensatory damages, which encompasses pain and suffering damages, as well as a huge $50 million award for punitive damages.

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Taxotere and Permanent Hair Loss
Hair loss, or alopecia, is a common condition for many people, especially when they age. The exact reason for the hair loss can vary, but one particularly unpleasant cause is chemotherapy. However, not all patients will be affected the same way during chemotherapy, even when taking the same chemotherapy drug to fight the same type of cancer.

For example, some patients may only experience a slight change in hair color, while others will have thinning hair. Others may have hair loss, although the amount and areas of hair loss can differ among patients. For some unlucky patients, the hair loss is permanent. One such chemotherapy drug that causes permanent hair loss is Taxotere.

What Is Taxotere?

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Artificial Hip System
The vast majority of artificial hip failures over the past decade involved metal-on-metal (MoM) hip components. These medical devices were meant to revolutionize the artificial hip market. Specifically, the all-metal hip components were intended to last a long time, and much longer than older generation artificial hips using materials like ceramics and plastics, which had a tendency to wear down and “fail” after twelve or fifteen years. Beyond that, the metal-on-metal artificial hips were touted to withstand the rigors of active, athletic patients. It sounded like a terrific advancement in the development of artificial hips. The problem is, the metal-on-metal design did not work, in many cases because the metal acetabular cup and the metal femoral head would grind together day after day, month after month, releasing harmful metal debris (metallosis) into the patient’s body. Far too many people were forced to get revision surgeries a few years after the implant surgery to remove the metal hips.

It turned out to be a disaster for thousands of patients and for several large medical device manufacturers. Depuy and Zimmer, to name just two companies, faced thousands of lawsuits from people injured by the metal-on-metal artificial hips. Many of those cases are resolved or resolving, but many more await settlement or jury trials.

The LFIT V40 Is a Metal-on-Polyethylene Artificial Hip

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Health Insurance Subrogation
If you are injured by a defective or faulty medical device or medication, you may be able to recover damages from the responsible manufacturer. Depending on the facts of your case, these damages can compensate you for things such as medical bills, pain and suffering and lost wages. In cases where the manufacturer acted in particular nasty ways, such as burying a product study which showed an increased risk of injury, punitive damages may even be possible.

For plaintiffs who are able to obtain a damage award from the responsible medical device or pharmaceutical company, they understand they will not be able to keep every penny received. For example, some of it will go to their attorney (if they have one) and some of it may be subject to taxes. But sometimes, an unexpected “bill” comes from their health insurance company.

Why Do I Have to Pay My Health Insurance Company?