Articles Posted in Artificial Hip

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This is the story about the Smith & Nephew Birmingham Hip Resurfacing Device, the patients harmed by the metal-on-metal artificial hip, the lawsuits that followed, and the massive Master Complaint filed last August against Smith & Nephew.

But First, How Do We Get to a “Master Complaint”?

Smith & Nephew lawsuits moved to MDL
This is how product liability multidistrict litigation begins: a product (like an artificial hip) hits the market. The artificial hip is implanted in thousands of patients. A year passes, then a few more. Patients complain of aches, pains, inflammation, noises, maybe even neurological symptoms. Doctors notify the manufacturer and their patients of these bad outcomes. Post-market studies are done. Problems are discovered with the product (in the case of metal-on-metal artificial hips, those problems included metallosis, loosening, pseudotumors, and many other “bad outcomes”). Injured people file lawsuits in courts around the country. The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) eventually realizes it needs to designate one court to handle pretrial issues with the hundreds of cases being filed, so a multidistrict litigation (MDL) site is chosen, and the lawsuits are transferred to that MDL court. From there, the plaintiffs consolidate their efforts, and eventually a Master Complaint is carefully drafted and filed.

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Advocating for compensation for DePuy ASR plaintiffs
This is my pitch: People who had to undergo revision surgery because their DePuy ASR artificial hip failed should be compensated for their injuries, even if the revision surgery occurred beyond the ten-year anniversary date of the original implant surgery.

Let me admit the obvious: It’s a bit self-serving for me to argue this point. I am an attorney and I represent individuals injured by the failure of the DePuy ASR device. But I have read a lot about these cases, over many years, and the more I understand the science behind these metal-on-metal (MoM) hips (or the lack of science), I am more convinced that thousands of people have been unfairly injured, even if those injuries did not become obvious for several years. Even ten years.

The DePuy ASR Settlements

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Surgeon implanting artificial hipIt’s nice to see that I may be out in front of a national publication like The New York Times. For two and a half years I have been writing on the dangers of metal-on-metal artificial hips and the deeply-flawed 510(k) medical device approval process. On Saturday Jeanne Lenzer published a very informative piece in the Times on the potential dangers of hip replacement surgery: Can Your Hip Replacement Kill You? Ms. Lenzer examines the way too many medical devices reach the marketplace without proper clinical testing. It is a subject I have written about often. Most people don’t realize how easy the FDA has made it for companies to release new medical products, but it is important to be aware of this weak regulatory system before you allow any surgeon to implant a device in your body. Federal courts across the country are littered with multidistrict litigation involving dozens of failed medical devices. In my view the 510(k) process is the reason for much of this litigation and misery. With proper testing and analysis, many of these serious injuries from dangerous products could be avoided.

One chilling statistic in the NYT article: medical interventions–including artificial hip and other medical implant surgeries–are the third leading cause of death in the United States.

By the way, Jeanne Lenzer recently published a book that you should read: The Danger Within Us: America’s Untested, Unregulated Medical Device Industry and One Man’s Battle to Survive It. I just bought a copy, have already begun reading it, and will discuss in a later post.

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For many years my clients with failing artificial hips have asked me about the health effects of high cobalt and chromium levels in the body. These questions usually arise after clients get blood work done and the test reveals abnormally high metal levels. If you are reading this article, you probably already know that cobalt and chromium are two metals used in the construction of most metal-on-metal (MoM) artificial hip systems. In fact, cobalt and chromium are used to make artificial hips that are not metal-on-metal but instead use polyethylene liners, or ceramic heads, or other non-metal components. When metal components grind together, as they naturally do when a MoM artificial hip is implanted in a person, very small metal particles can be released into the tissue and the bloodstream. I wrote about the health effects of metallosis on the body over a year ago. You can check out that article here.

Cobalt poisoning from artificial hip implants
Dr. Steven Tower, an orthopedic surgeon in Alaska, recently gave a fascinating (and alarming) talk about the many neurological problems he has observed in hip patients with elevated cobalt levels in the body. For years the focus following hip replacement surgeries has been on the physical condition of the hip itself. Dr. Tower has concluded that this approach is wrong, or at least incomplete, and he has seen that often the first signs of trouble with hip replacement patients are neurological symptoms. He has even given it a name: Arthroplasty Cobalt Encephalopathy, or ACE.

What is Arthroplasty Cobalt Encephalopathy (ACE)?

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On November 16, 2017, yet another Texas jury Huge Verdict in Fourth DePuy Pinnacle Trialdelivered a huge verdict to the victims of the DePuy Pinnacle artificial hip. In this fourth bellwether trial, the jury awarded $247,000,000.00 to six plaintiffs and their spouses. According to news reports, after a two-month, hard-fought trial, the jury found that DePuy Orthopaedics and parent company Johnson & Johnson were liable to plaintiffs for the Pinnacle’s design and manufacturing defects. But the jury went further, concluding that the actions of the companies were fraudulent and deceptive, and that they had acted recklessly and maliciously in manufacturing, selling, and promoting the flawed products.

These last terms have special meaning in law: findings of fraud, deception, recklessness, and malice indicate that the companies went beyond mere negligence, that the defendants misbehaved intentionally or with a reckless disregard to the fact that their actions would harm innocent people. Because of these special findings, the plaintiffs were entitled to receive “punitive damages” from DePuy and J&J, which are money damages intended to punish defendants for especially bad behavior.

The jury awarded $90 million dollars in punitive damages to be paid by J&J, and $78 million in punitive damages to be paid by DePuy. That’s $168 million in total punitive damages. It is a lot of money.

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A former client wrote a review of my work helping him through his metal-on-metal artificial hip case. I am very grateful for the review and would like to share it:

Former Client Writes Review of Attorney Clay HodgesI had one shot to even the score. I trusted Clay Hodges with my life. Mr. Hodges and his paralegal were spot-on with every aspect of my case. Throughout the process, beginning to end, I felt confident I had made the right choice. I needed a team that would press my rights swiftly and with results. I feel that Mr. Hodges’s experience, persistence and character led to these maximum results. Trustworthiness, operational expertise and great results . . . I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.

R.N.

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Fourth Depuy Pinnacle Hip Bellwether Trial in Dallas Texas
By all accounts, each of the three bellwether trials in the DePuy Pinnacle artificial hip MDL has been contentious. In the fourth bellwether trial, which should wrap up this week, the litigants have been in a fierce battle again. The most recent skirmish has centered on allegations by plaintiffs suggesting that lawyers for DePuy Orthopaedics may have been trying to influence the testimony of a witness for the plaintiffs.

I want to share with you the affidavit submitted by Dr. David Shein, a surgeon who treated three of the six plaintiffs involved in the current trial. Dr. Shein was once expected to be called as a fact witness in the case by the plaintiffs.

Affidavit of David Shein, M.D.

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Woman Recovering From Artificial Hip Revision Surgery Tells Her Story
In this post Suzanne recounts her slow recovery from artificial hip revision surgery. Suzanne received a metal-on-metal artificial hip, and four years later the hip was recalled. Suzanne was forced to undergo revision surgery a year later.

Part 3

Sitting on my night stand next to me here at home is a shiny steel sphere resting in rougher textured steel “cup.” When I hold it in my hand my fingers will not close around it and when I pick it up, the shiny steel ball is heavy and rolls back into the cup revealing a flat bottom with a hole in the middle of it. It was attached to an artificial titanium femur in my left leg just three days ago–prior to my revision surgery–and looks and feels so smooth and shiny it is hard to believe that it has wreaked such havoc on my unsuspecting body: staining the surrounding tissues an ugly gray, whipping up metal particles and spewing them into the orbit surrounding my recalled body parts and, worst of all, destroying any and all chances I may have had to develop a “J-Lo” like posterior due to irreparable damage to my gluteus medius and minimus muscles. Truthfully, I am more concerned with my ability to flow into a left legged lunge from a downward dog than to see my butt standing at attention, but that is too much to think about too soon and so instead I turn to my beautiful daughter who is giving me a bedside serenade on her guitar and think about how much I love my family and all my friends and the taste of lime popsicles.

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In this post, “Suzanne” describes the days leading up to revision surgery. Suzanne received a metal-on-metal artificial hip in 2006. The hip was recalled in 2010, and Suzanne was forced to undergo revision surgery in 2011.

Part 2

Woman Waits for Depuy ASR Revision Surgery

I woke up before the sun feeling wide awake, but not ready to face the day, I forced myself to fall back asleep re-entering the world of dreams and mystery. My dreams have been fraught with intrigue, dysfunction, insanity and all kinds of craziness and no wonder! My life is a bit crazy these days. As crazy as my dreams can be, they are never too crazy for me to say. “Hey, wake up, this has gone too far!” I relish in the scenarios, the unconscious connections between everything that is happening in my life being played out in random dream dramas. It’s better than soaps. Continue reading →

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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 a metal-on-metal (MoM) artificial hip in 2006 after years of pain from arthritis. The hip was recalled in 2010, and Suzanne was forced to undergo revision surgery in 2011. This is her story:

Part 1