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Knee Replacement Lawsuits

People who have filed knee replacement lawsuits claim that the devices loosened, became unstable and required surgery to correct their problems. One knee implant manufacturer paid $1 billion to settle 4,000 lawsuits filed over its devices.

Thousands of people have filed knee replacement lawsuits in recent years — most of which claim the devices loosened because of a design defect or other flaw.

Attorneys in Alabama filed the first lawsuit against Attune Knee Replacement manufacturer DePuy Synthes in September 2017. A steady stream of filings around the country followed. Lawyers estimate hundreds of patients may sue the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary in 2018.

There are no publicly announced Attune settlements. None of the cases has gone to trial, so there are no verdicts yet.

The Zimmer NexGen Knee Implant multidistrict litigation is currently the only active knee replacement MDL.

A federal panel combined the first 18 cases in an Illinois federal court in August 2011. There were more than 1,700 lawsuits in the MDL but most were dismissed.

In February 2018, Zimmer announced a settlement in the remaining lawsuits. The exact amount of the settlement is unknown. The company and the patients who sued agreed to keep the amount confidential. There were 260 cases still pending as of September 2018.

Though most of the recent lawsuits name DePuy and Zimmer, people have also claimed injuries from other models of knee replacements including B. Braun and Stryker.

At least 25 people sued B. Braun in a California court in 2017. All said they had to have revision surgery after their knee replacements failed.

Knee Replacement Manufacturers and Models Named in Lawsuits
Manufacturer Model Name Why People Are Suing
Arthrex iBalance Knee Pain and instability
B. Braun Advanced Surface ceramic coated knees Loosening due to cement failure
DePuy Attune Knee System Loosening and instability
Exactech Optetrack Knee Excessive wear and premature failure
Zimmer Biomet NexGen

Persona
Premature loosening

Loosening due to defective screws
Stryker Duracon Unicompartmental Knee System Pain, instability, restricted motion
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Lawsuits Claim Different Flaws Caused Loosening

People filed lawsuits over the DePuy Attune and Zimmer NexGen knees because the devices failed to attach to patients’ bones, which made the knee replacements unstable. Patients needed revision surgery to repair the loose implants.

Radiography of a knee showing a loosening of the prosthesis
Source: Knee replacement lawsuits blame manufacturers for loosening of the prosthesis.

In 2010, Zimmer recalled 68,000 NexGen Knee components, warning that the knee replacement could loosen if the device was not fully cemented or a stem was not used. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration received more than 100 reports of the knees loosening prematurely.

The company recalled another 40,000 in 2014, citing a faulty connection in the knee system. It said threads on one part were “out of specification.” Surgeons were supposed to screw a stem extension or plug into the threads, but the flaw could prevent a perfect fit. Over time, the joint could loosen.

DePuy’s Attune knee has never been recalled, but people filed lawsuits over the implants claiming tibial loosening. They said the cement failed to bond the implant’s base plate to the patient’s tibia, which is one of the bones in the lower leg.

Largest Settlement Involving Knees

One of the largest settlements involving knee replacements was a $1 billion payment in 2002. Sulzer Medica agreed to pay $1 billion to settle roughly 4,000 lawsuits over its hip and knee implants.

Knee Replacement Settlement Payouts
Settlement amounts in the Sulzer Medica case averaged $200,000 per patient
Source: The New York Times, Feb. 2, 2002

The Swiss company recalled 25,000 joint implants in 2001 after about 200 people reported complications with the devices. The company estimated at least 17,000 people had already received the affected implants. About 90 percent of those patients were in the U.S.

The company determined that the parts had shipped with an oily residue on the implants. It prevented bone from adhering to the devices, allowing them to loosen. The Wall Street Journal reported that 561 patients who received Sulzer knees had to have their knees replaced by the time of the settlement.

Sulzer changed its name to Centerpulse after the recall. Zimmer acquired it in 2003 for $3.2 billion.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.

Terry Turner
Written By Terry Turner Writer

Terry Turner has been writing articles and producing news broadcasts for more than 25 years. He covers FDA policy, proton pump inhibitors, and medical devices such as hernia mesh, IVC filters, and hip and knee implants. An Emmy-winning journalist, he has reported on health and medical policy issues before Congress, the FDA and other federal agencies. Some of his qualifications include:

  • American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates member
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Health Literacy certificates
  • Original works published or cited in Washington Examiner, MedPage Today and The New York Times
  • Appeared as an expert panelist on hernia mesh lawsuits on the BBC
Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Aimee V. Hachigian-Gould
Dr. Aimee V. Hachigian-Gould Orthopedic Surgeon

24 Cited Research Articles

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  2. Lexis Legal News. (2015, November 11). 1st NexGen Knee Bellwether Trial Ends in Defense Verdict For Defendant Zimmer Inc. Retrieved from http://www.lexislegalnews.com/articles/3884/1st-nexgen-knee-bellwether-trial-ends-in-defense-verdict-for-defendant-zimmer-inc
  3. Corso, J. (2017, March 16). Another Bellwether Drops out of Zimmer Knee Implant MDL. Retrieved from https://www.law360.com/articles/902900?scroll=1
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  6. Bodine, L. (2017, January 6). Judge Admits Causation Expert in Zimmer knee Replacement MDL. Retrieved from https://www.masstortnexus.com/mass-torts-news/judge-admits-causation-expert-in-zimmer-knee-replacement-mdl/
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  8. PR Newswire. (2017, September 18). First U.S. Lawsuit Filed Against DePuy-Synthes for Attune Knee Replacement Failure. Orthopedic Design & Technology. Retrieved from https://www.odtmag.com/contents/view_breaking-news/2017-09-18/first-us-lawsuit-filed-against-depuy-synthes-for-attune-knee-replacement-failure/
  9. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2015, June 26) OtisMed Corporation former CEO sentenced for shipping adulterated knee replacement cutting guides. Retrieved from https://wayback.archive-it.org/7993/20170112222748/http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm452987.htm
  10. Meier, B. (2010, June 19). Surgeon vs. Knee Maker: Who’s Rejecting Whom? The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/business/20knee.html
  11. U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. (2012, October 1). Order Vacating Conditional Transfer Order. In Re Zimmer NexGen Knee Implant Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2272. Retrieved from http://www.jpml.uscourts.gov/sites/jpml/files/MDL-2272-Order_Vacating_CTO-09-12.pdf
  12. Meier, B. (2011, December 22). New Models of Implants Not Better, Study Finds. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/23/health/research/new-models-of-hip-and-knee-implants-not-better-study-finds.html
  13. Duroni, L. (2015, April 14). Smith & Nephew Sued Over Failed Knee Replacement. Retrieved https://www.law360.com/articles/643110/smith-nephew-sued-over-failed-knee-replacement
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  16. U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii. (2015, November 9). Manuel A. Sanchez V. Johnson & Johnson Service Inc., Johnson & Johnson Incorporated, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies Inc.; DePuy Orthopedics, Inc., and Doe Defendants 1-100. Stipulation For Dismissal with Prejudice of All Claims and Parties. Retrieved from http://www.pacer.gov
  17. U.S. District Court Northern District of Illinois. (2017, May 8). MDL 2272 In Re Zimmer NexGen Knee Implant Products Liability Litigation. Case Number 1:11-cv-05468. Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Suggestion of Remand. Retrieved from http://www.pacer.gov
  18. U.S. District Court Northern District of Illinois. (2017, May 23). MDL 2272 In Re Zimmer NexGen Knee Implant Products Liability Litigation. Case Number 1:11-cv-05468. Notification of Docket Entry. Minutes. Retrieved from http://www.pacer.gov
  19. Dye, J. (2015, November 6). Zimmer wins first U.S. trial over NexGen Flex knee devices. Retrieved http://www.reuters.com/article/zimmer-biomet-nexgen-idUSL1N1312VM20151106
  20. Trader, S. (2016, October 24). Zimmer Gets Quick Win In 2nd Knee Implant Defect Bellwether. Retrieved https://www.law360.com/articles/854476/zimmer-gets-quick-win-in-2nd-knee-implant-defect-bellwether
  21. U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division. (2018, February 12). In re: Zimmer NexGen Knee Implant Products Liability Litigation. Case Management Order No. 13. Retrieved from https://jc6kx1c9izw3wansr3nmip8k-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018-02-12-Order-1.pdf
  22. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2009, July 7). Class 2 Device Recall Duracon Total Knee System Tibial Components. Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfres/res.cfm?id=74712
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  24. U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. (2018, September 17). MDL Statistics Report - Distribution of Pending MDL Dockets by District. Retrieved from http://www.jpml.uscourts.gov/sites/jpml/files/Pending_MDL_Dockets_By_District-September-17-2018.pdf
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