Stryker’s legal troubles continue to mount following the recall of its Rejuvenate and ABG II modular-neck hip stem implants in July 2012. In January 2013, Judge Brian Martinotti was appointed by the Supreme Court in New Jersey to handle the growing number of lawsuits filed against the joint manufacturer in that state, the New Jersey Law Journal reported.
Martinotti signed the multicounty litigation (MCL) consolidation transfer order on Jan. 22 and appointed Ellen Relkin of Weitz & Luxenberg as chair of the Plaintiff’s Steering Committee. Relkin was also appointed Liaison Counsel, and her duties include coordinating with federal and state courts as well as coordinating the defense and plaintiffs’ counsel.
Stryker’s attorneys did not object to the consolidation.
There are about 50 lawsuits currently in the New Jersey MCL, though Relkin told the New Jersey Law Journal that she expects many more to be filed. “Every week, we have another client who is getting a hip revision,” she said.
Relkin is also co-lead counsel in federal lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson for the DePuy ASR hip.
Stryker Hips Can Fail Early and Cause Tissue Death
One of the biggest problems with Stryker’s Rejuvenate and ABG II is the devices’ tendency to corrode and fret – a process where metal breaks down and releases particles into the nearby tissues and blood. According to lawsuits, the company misrepresented that its patented titanium and cobalt chrome modular necks and stems were resistant to fretting and corrosion.
Plaintiffs claim that had they known, they would never have had these devices implanted.
People like Dianne Pingel are calling Stryker negligent. After having two Stryker hips implanted and removed, she is practically disabled. The Boca Raton, Fla., woman and her husband filed a suit against the device manufacturer. “They have jeopardized a lot of people,” she told the Palm Beach Post.
Pingel’s doctors found high levels of metal ions in her blood after she complained of severe pain in her hips shortly after implantation. They also found dying bone and tissue surrounding the joints as a result of the metal debris leaching out of the implants. Her thigh bone also broke during revision surgery because “cobalt poisoning” weakened the bone and tissue.
Another person injured by Stryker’s implants is Scott Ebert, 49, who had to have his hip replaced only six months after it was implanted.
Ebert also filed a lawsuit. He was told that the Rejuvenate, designed and marketed by Stryker for younger patients, would fit better in his body because of the modular stem and neck. Unfortunately, the metal-on-metal design of the neck and stem was not resistant to corrosion, as Stryker promised, and Ebert’s leg started giving way. He was faced with excruciating pain that forced him to have revision surgery after doctors found metal in his blood.
Stryker expects the recall of the Rejuvenate and ABG II to cost up to $390 million.
Stryker Accused of Failure to Warn; Surgeons Push Joint Registry
Lawsuits allege that Stryker never warned patients. Instead it issued a recall that was too late for many people who already suffered complications.
In response to the recent rash of hip implant failures and lawsuits – including the 10,000 DePuy ASR lawsuits that have already been filed – the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has provided funds to launch a nonprofit joint registry. The registry, called the American Joint Replacement Registry, would keep track of problematic devices in order to better keep patients safe.
Unfortunately, the proposal still faces a few logistic hurdles, including the need for technology to keep track of the devices.
Stryker declined to comment on what percentage of their devices have failed.