Articles Tagged with order

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Zimmer NexGen Knee Replacement Surgery

Without question, the Zimmer NexGen Knee MDL is not going all that well for plaintiffs lately. The first bellwether trial ended in a defense verdict in favor of Zimmer. Then Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer issued a Lone Pine Order which imposed a heavier burden on plaintiffs to avoid dismissal of their cases. That Order requires each plaintiff to file an Expert Declarations form establishing that the case meets all the latest requirements to warrant its continued place in the litigation. These requirements include a showing of (1) evidence of loosening of the artificial knee, (2) evidence of knee flexion of 120 degrees, (3) other detailed designations of injury and product failure. You can read more about the Lone Pine Order here.

Then, on October 21, 2016, Judge Pallmeyer ruled that the second bellwether case did not warrant a jury trial. In her Order, she granted summary judgment for Zimmer. You can read about that court decision here, but in a nutshell, Judge Pallmeyer simply rejected the validity of the plaintiff’s key expert witness. She concluded that Dr. Joseph Fetto failed to refer to scientific literature or to “give any explanation for why the implant design, and asymmetric loading generally, causes . . . loosening.” (Order, p. 12) She wrote at length about the reasons why Dr. Fetto’s testimony is unreliable, ultimately concluding that Dr. Fetto has not “given the court sufficient basis to conclude that his opinion is reliable.” (Order, p. 17) Without a reliable expert witness, a plaintiff cannot win a product liability case.

The Judge’s Order was a sledgehammer, but . . .

It’s Not All Bad News

It’s quite awful to select a bellwether case, prepare it for trial, and then, days before jury selection, the judge grants summary judgment on all claims in favor of defendants. After years of litigation, the plaintiff, who was clearly injured, was out of court without compensation. Still, there is reason to believe that future cases may have different results. Judge Pallmeyer admitted as much in the last section of her 43-page order, titled “Potential Differences Between Joas’s Case and Others in the MDL.” Let’s examine a few keys statements in the part of her Order (the italicized statements below were written by Judge Pallmeyer):

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Artificial Knee Components

October 2016 was set to be an important month for thousands of people injured by the Zimmer NexGen artificial knee. The second “bellwether” trial was scheduled. Bellwether trials involve representative cases that are used to educate the defendants and the plaintiffs on what certain juries thinks may be proper results for these kinds of cases. After several bellwether trials, both sides often come together and work out a global settlement based in large part on results from these bellwether trials.

Unfortunately for the plaintiffs in the Zimmer NexGen MDL, the latest bellwether case never reached the jury. On October 21, 2016, Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer, the federal judge overseeing the Zimmer NexGen MDL, granted summary judgment for Zimmer and the other defendants. Which means the case is over.

Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is a final judgment entered by the judge prior to trial. Essentially, the judge determines that no material factual issues remain in dispute and that one side is entitled to judgment “as a matter of law.” For the most part, summary judgment is a defensive tool, and defense lawyers will file a motion for summary judgment and will argue to the court that even taking the facts in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, the defendant is still entitled to judgment without the need for a jury trial.

This is exactly what happened last week on the eve of the second bellwether trial in the Zimmer NexGen MDL. In a 43-page Order, Judge Pallmeyer held that the plaintiffs failed to present adequate evidence that the design of the Zimmer NexGen knee caused the plaintiff’s alleged injury, and that the plaintiffs failed to show that the warnings accompanying the medical device were inadequate.

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Transvaginal Mesh MDLLet me get right to it: Judge Clay Land has a point. On September 7, 2016, Judge Land issued a blistering Order in the Mentor Corporation ObTape Transobturator Sling Mesh multi-district litigation. In a nutshell, he wrote that he was fed up with frivolous claims. Judge Land stated that he will consider money sanctions against plaintiffs’ lawyers who file and pursue lawsuits in the MDL that they know have no merit or which suffer from some fatal flaw. A fatal flaw could be the passing of the statute of limitations, or the failure to find an expert who can testify that the transvaginal mesh product caused the specific injuries to the plaintiff. In those cases, Judge Land writes, the plaintiffs’ lawyers ought to know better, and should not bring the claim in the first place, or should at the very least dismiss the action when the lawyer discovers a flaw in the case which is fatal to gaining a recovery.

The worst transgression identified by Judge Land is when the product manufacturer seeks “summary judgment” in a particular case and the plaintiff’s attorney simply throws in the towel on the case and does not even bother to show up for the court hearing. In those cases, even though the plaintiff is inevitably going to lose the case, the judge and the law clerks and court personnel and defense attorneys still have to show up and do the work of handling and deciding the motion.

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