Wright Medical faced roughly 2,000 lawsuits after selling its hip-implant manufacturing operations. A federal panel combined 640 of the lawsuits into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in Georgia. Others were combined in state courts.
The company lost the first two trials. In November 2016, it settled more than 1,200 lawsuits for $240 million. In October 2017, Wright agreed to settle all remaining hip-implant lawsuits against the company for $90 million.
The second settlement covered plaintiffs who had not been allowed into the first settlement. This included people who filed lawsuits after the November 2016 agreement and those who had missed the deadline to file a lawsuit.
No additional lawsuits could be added to the MDL after Oct. 18, 2017. Following the 2017 settlement, the court ordered the MDL closed in June 2018. As of September 2018, there were 189 lawsuits still pending. Wright expected to send out the final settlement payment in September 2019.
The 2017 settlement also applied to dozens of cases that were still pending in a Judicial Council Coordination Proceeding in California state court.
Wright’s hip implants were manufactured by the company’s OrthoRecon division. Wright sold OrthoRecon in 2013 but remained legally responsible for lawsuits over its hips. Wright Medical no longer manufactures hip implants.
The majority of lawsuits named Wright’s Conserve and Profemur hip devices. The MDL was limited to only Conserve hips and Profemur System parts related to certain Conserve components. But other models were named in individual lawsuits.
- Conserve Total Hip Implant System
- Conserve Total A-Class Advanced Metal Hip Implant System
- Conserve Resurfacing System
- Profemur System
- Dynasty hip implants
- Lineage hip implants
Hip Failure Rate Higher than Expected
Studies and reports to federal regulators have found many Wright hip implants failed sooner or more often than expected.
A 2016 review published in The Open Orthopaedics Journal found a high failure rate among patients who received Wright Conserve hips. The study looked at 92 patients who received a Conserve hip between 2005 and 2010. It found that nearly 1 in every 5 patients needed revision surgery to correct problems with the devices. The average time between receiving a Wright hip replacement and requiring corrective surgery was just 4 1/2 years.
In 2015, the company that had purchased Wright Medical’s hip division started receiving a higher-than-expected number of reports of fractures with the Profemur. MicroPort Orthopedics recalled 10,825 of the devices.
“If the modular neck fractures, the patient may experience sudden pain, instability and difficulty walking and performing common task.”
The FDA declared the Profemur recall a Class I recall, the agency’s most serious type. The recall notice warned that an acute fracture of the device would require emergency surgery. It also warned that such a fracture in a Profemur hip stem could “lead to neurovascular damage, hematoma, hemorrhage, and even death.
People filed their lawsuits based on the failure of these hips and the complications that occurred as a result.
- John Wallace
- John Wallace of Arizona received a Conserve implant in his left hip in 2005. In December 2011, his doctor found elevated chromium and cobalt levels in his blood. Wallace required revision surgery which led to further complications including a “spontaneous dislocation” of the hip.
- Linda Bohnenstiehl
- Linda Bohnenstiehl of Illinois received Conserve and Profemur hip devices in a Missouri hospital in 2008. She claimed that the Profemur device fractured at the femoral neck in 2010, causing her physical injuries, debilitation and pain and suffering. The injuries forced her to have a revision surgery.
- Leon Thomas
- Leon Thomas of Arkansas received a Conserve Total Hip System in 2006. He began experiencing severe pain in his left hip and groin in 2011 and was forced to have revision surgery. His doctor suspected a loose hip socket, and he found elevated chromium and cobalt levels in his blood. Thomas’ lawsuit claimed he was permanently impaired and suffered ongoing discomfort from nerve damage and other injuries.
Juries Award $15.5 Million, Wright Offers $330 Million in Settlements
Two juries returned verdicts totaling $15.5 million against Wright in lawsuits over the company’s hip replacements. The back-to-back losses appear to have motivated the company to offer up $330 million through two settlements to resolve the remaining cases.
Wright settled the first lawsuit over its Profemur hip stem for an undisclosed amount five days before trial. Plaintiff Timothy Courson had claimed permanent injuries and had sought $3 million in damages.
A California jury awarded Alan Warner $4.5 million in the first Wright hip lawsuit to go to trial. Warner claimed the Profemur device snapped while he was walking. The court later reduced the award to $1 million.
Jury awarded $11 million to former ski instructor Robyn Christiansen after finding a Conserve implant caused tissue damage. The court later reduced the amount to $2.1 million.
Wright settled 1,292 lawsuits in the federal MDL and the consolidated court action in California for a total of $240 million.
Wright agreed to settle roughly 600 remaining hip lawsuits for $90 million.
A judge closed the Wright MDL, barring new lawsuits.
Wright estimated it would make the final payment to patients by this date.
Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.