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DePuy Pinnacle Hip-Replacement Lawsuits Gain Momentum

image of hip bones

DePuy Pinnacle hip-implant lawsuits are gaining momentum as more cases join the multidistrict litigation (MDL) and the presiding judge and lead attorneys take steps to move forward in the discovery phase.

More than 1,800 lawsuits over defective hip implants now are part of In re: DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., Pinnacle Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation (MDL No. 2244), which is overseen by the Honorable James E. Kinkeade in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The MDL was created more than a year ago, in May 2011.

In an MDL, lawsuits are grouped because of similar claims, and plaintiffs share the pre-trial discovery process. Each individual lawsuit will be tried separately, and each plaintiff receives a separate judgment or monetary settlement. A class-action lawsuit is different, in that the cases are tried together.

During a status conference on August 9, 2012, Judge Kinkeade discussed scheduling issues and details about preserving evidence for all the cases as part of the MDL discovery phase. A date has not been announced for the first case, or bellwether trial.

Metal-on-Metal Problems

After the recall of 93,000 DePuy ASR hip implants in August 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received numerous complaints about the DePuy Pinnacle hip-replacement system, which was the predecessor to the ASR hip-replacement system. Because of the defective design associated with metal-on-metal components, many patients have experienced early failure rates with their Pinnacle devices, forcing them to undergo painful corrective surgeries.

In addition, researchers say all-metal hip implants can cause metallosis, or metal poisoning of the surrounding blood and tissues, because metal shavings are produced when the socket and ball components rub against each other. One British study has linked the metal debris to cancer of the bladder and kidneys.

No Recall for Pinnacle

Still, no recall has been issued so far for the DePuy Pinnacle, which was approved in 2000. Reuters reports that DePuy Pinnacle lawsuits could far outnumber DePuy ASR lawsuits. The news service says about 37,000 U.S. patients were implanted with an ASR device, while 150,000 have the Pinnacle.

“We’re simply seeing the tip of the iceberg with metal-on-metal failures,” Dr. Mary O’Connor, an orthopedic surgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., told Reuters.

However, DePuy spokesowman Mindy Tinsley was quoted as saying the company is “very confident” in the Pinnacle device and will vigorously defend itself against lawsuits. In other words, DePuy is unwilling to settle Pinnacle cases, leaving its victims to absorb the mounting medical bills from revision surgeries and other treatments made necessary by a defective medical device. That’s a far cry from how the company responded to its ASR recall.

DePuy Orthopaedics is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

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