Articles Posted in Artificial Hip

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Smith & Nephew Birmingham Hip Resurfacing System
As we get older, our bodies weaken, bones become sore, and joints break down. Hip and knee problems are common conditions of aging. In fact, in the past decade millions of Americans have had hip replacement surgeries. Unfortunately, some defective artificial hips have caused patients more suffering than their original hip ailments. For one recent example, many patients who received the Birmingham Hip Resurfacing System by Smith & Nephew have had to undergo revision surgeries to cure new and unanticipated problems relating to the medical device. Many of these people have filed lawsuits.

Smith & Nephew’s Birmingham Hip Resurfacing System

Smith & Nephew designs and markets medical devices. One of the medical devices Smith & Nephew manufactures is a joint replacement system. An example of a joint replacement system is a hip implant. The Birmingham Hip Resurfacing (BHR) System is an artificial hip replacement made of metal components. BHRs have been used since 1997. The FDA approved BHRs for use in the United States in 2006; this approval was conditioned on Smith & Nephew reporting and analyzing adverse events, negative side effects, and complaints regarding the BHR. Just like any other medical device or medicine, the BHR must not provide false information (or false hope) to patients about what the device can accomplish.

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Have you ever had a problem with a medical device? If you want to bring state law claims against the manufacturer or a doctor, there’s an important legal concept you should know about: federal preemption. In a recent case, the court dismissed several of the plaintiff’s claims against Smith & Nephew, finding that the claims were preempted by federal law. Let’s look at what happened in that case to illustrate how preemption works. Note that while this case involves a hip replacement, the same legal principle could apply to any medical device regulated under U.S. law.

Smith & Nephew Artificial Hip Replacement

Artificial hip replacement and hip resurfacing
By way of background, the hip is a ball-and-socket joint, moving not just forward and back (like a knee joint) but also sideways. In a total hip replacement, part of the upper thigh bone and the ball portion of the hip joint are replaced with metal components. Part of the replacement includes a liner between the ball and the socket that allows the hip to rotate freely. Some patients have hip resurfacing surgery instead, where only the interface between the hip joint’s ball and its socket is replaced with a new surface.

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As we saw in the previous post, the “Birmingham plaintiffs” submitted a 160-page Master Complaint in August 2017, alleging many Smith & Nephew misrepresentations that led to the introduction of an unreasonably dangerous product into the marketplace. In this post we continue our deep dive into the Smith & Nephew Birmingham Hip Master Complaint. (Part 2 in a series.)

“Apples to Oranges”

Smith & Nephew Birmingham Hip Like Other MoM Hips
In a stunning marketing document directed at surgeons titled “Apples to Oranges,” Smith & Nephew announced boldly that the Birmingham Hip Resurfacing system “is not your average ‘metal on metal.’ It’s BHR.” Depicted in the advertisement is an apple with the names of other artificial hip products: ASR, Durom, Cormet, Conserve. It is rather astonishing, suggesting that the BHR was better and safer than these other MoM hips. I guess the BHR is the orange.

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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.