People who have filed knee replacement lawsuits claim the devices loosened, became unstable and they required surgery to correct their problems. One knee implant manufacturer paid $1 billion to settle 4,000 lawsuits filed over its faulty devices.
Those who had knee replacement surgery in which a Zimmer Persona Knee implant was used and experienced one of the following complications sought legal compensation:
Number of Lawsuits High of 1,800 cases MDL (Zimmer)
Plaintiff Injuries Pain, further knee damage, infection, need for revision surgery
Defendants Zimmer; Stryker; Smith & Nephew; DePuy
Bellwether Trial Date Nov. 5, 2015 (first Zimmer bellwether)
MDL Status Active (Zimmer)
Top Settlement OtisMed (Stryker) paid $80 million to resolve criminal and civil investigations
Knee replacements are among the most common joint replacement surgeries in the U.S. With more than 600,000 knee replacement surgeries every year, even a small number of failures can affect hundreds of people. One study predicts nearly 3.5 million knee replacements will be performed every year by 2030.
Repairing complications from a defective knee implant can require surgery to repair or replace the device. This can be a costly proposition for patients who suffer knee replacement complications, running up medical bills while frequently losing income while they recover.
Thousands of people who suffered serious knee replacement complications have filed lawsuits since 2000. Newly discovered issues with newer knee replacements may result in hundreds more lawsuits in the future.
There currently is only one large, multidistrict litigation (MDL) involving knee replacements. The Zimmer NexGen Knee MDL once involved nearly 1,800 individual lawsuits, but most have been dismissed and the judge in the case has told parties on all sides to negotiate an agreement to resolve the remaining cases.
MDLs combine several similar lawsuits with similar facts and injuries. They allow cases to move more quickly through the legal process while keeping legal costs down.
In 2015, Zimmer issued a recall for all 11,000 of its Persona Knee implants in distribution at the time. Attorneys are still talking with people affected by defects with these devices about the potential for Persona Knee lawsuits. In addition, some people have pressed ahead with individual lawsuits over various knee implant models including the Persona Knee.
In 2017, more than two dozen people sued German implant maker B. Braun in Los Angeles Superior court. They claim their ceramic knee implants loosened when the cement used to attach the devices to their bones failed.
People who have experienced loosening or instability that requires surgery to fix their knee implants may be able to sue the device’s manufacturer.
Filing a lawsuit can be a complicated process. There are several things to consider before filing a claim for knee replacement implant injuries.
Things to Consider Before Filing a Knee Replacement Lawsuit
The law limits the amount of time a person has to file a claim
Each state has different statutes of limitation, so it’s important to talk to an attorney about when and where the injury occurred.
Participating in a recall could affect possible compensation from a lawsuit
If people are injured by an implant that is later recalled, they could limit their ability to file lawsuits if they participate in the recall. It’s best to talk to a qualified attorney — not a device manufacturer’s representative or a doctor — about how to protect legal claims during a recall.
It’s a good idea to consult a qualified device attorney
Knee replacement injuries have already resulted in thousands of lawsuits. Qualified device attorneys are familiar with device manufacturers’ legal strategies and issues that are common in these types of claims. They can offer information on where to file a claim, whether it’s in a person’s best interest to join any potential class action, and how to obtain a possible legal settlement. Every situation is different, and a qualified device attorney can help explain all the legal options.
Free consultations are available
Most device attorneys offer free consultations to help determine if a person has a legal claim. But be sure to ask about fees before hiring any lawyer. Usually, these attorneys work on a contingency basis, meaning they do not get paid unless they win the case or obtain a settlement.
A lone Pennsylvania lawsuit over Zimmer’s Gender Solutions Knee spent more than 9 years working its way through the legal system.
Margo Polett received the knee in 2006. Several months later, she agreed to appear in a marketing video for Zimmer’s knee replacement devices. The video involved Polett walking on a treadmill and riding a stationary bike. During the taping, she developed problems that led to persistent pain and required multiple surgeries.
She filed a lawsuit in 2008 beginning a long series of appeals that continued through 2017.
Margo Polett filed lawsuit against Zimmer
Jury awarded Polett $27.6 million
Judge upheld $27.6 million verdict
Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the verdict
Pennsylvania Supreme Court reinstated the $27.6 million verdict and sent the case back to Superior Court
Superior Court determined the $27.6 million verdict was excessive and ordered the lower court to reassess damages, which resulted in a reduction to about $20 million
Pennsylvania appeals court upheld the $20 million, rejecting Zimmer’s calls to reduce it further, to around $5 million
Even after the December 2017 decision, Zimmer still had the option of appealing to the state Supreme Court.
Knee replacement lawsuits usually claim the product was defective and that the manufacturer knew or should have known about the risks, but failed to warn patients.
Knee replacement lawsuits often follow manufacturer major recalls of particular models of knee implants. Recalls will frequently highlight a problem with the design, manufacturing process, or packaging and marketing that resulted in several people experiencing the same problem with a knee implant.
Manufacturers and Models Currently Involved in Knee Replacement Lawsuits Include:
|Manufacturer||Model Name||Why People Are Suing|
|Persona Knee||Loosening due to defective screws|
|Arthrex||iBalance Knee||Pain and instability|
|DePuy||Attune Knee System||Instability and loosening|
|<Exactech||Optetrack Knee||Excessive wear leading to premature failure|
|B. Braun (Aesculap Implant Systems)||Advanced Surface ceramic coated knees||Device failure after cement fails to adhere to bone|
In one of the largest knee implant settlements, Sulzer Medica agreed to pay $1 billion to settle roughly 4,000 lawsuits over its hip and knee implants in 2002. Zimmer purchased Sulzer (by then renamed Centerpulse) for more than $3 billion in 2003.
“Settlement Amounts in the Sulzer Medica Case Averaged $200,000 per Patient.”
More recent knee implant lawsuits have not been as successful. More than 1,740 lawsuits over Zimmer’s NexGen knee were once part of the current multidistrict litigation. Bellwether trials, test cases drawn from those hundreds of lawsuits to gauge how juries will weigh the facts, went to court starting in 2015. Zimmer was able to win the early test cases.
Lawsuits over NexGen Knee Implants combined into an MDL
First bellwether trial ends in win for Zimmer
Judge issues order requiring plaintiffs to present more evidence in lawsuits, resulting in win for Zimmer in second bellwether trial
Illinois federal jury rules in favor of Zimmer after one day of deliberations in third bellwether trial
January – August 2017
More than 1,400 cases are dismissed or withdrawn from the MDL
MDL judge presses both sides to engage in settlement talks or mediation to resolve their cases
As of November 2017, no settlement had been reached in the NexGen Knee MDL and only 329 of the lawsuits were still pending.
The trio of victories for Zimmer, along with the higher standard of evidence plaintiffs had to present, led hundreds of people to withdraw their lawsuits.
There are currently no class action lawsuits involving defective knee replacements. Class actions are not always well suited for medical device lawsuits. Usually, people will file individual lawsuits against a manufacturer over a particular device such as a knee implant. If several people sue the same company for the same defect and injuries their cases will sometimes be combined in a single court.
Manufacturer recalls of large numbers of knee implants and clinical studies of implant failures underline the potential for injuries from defective knee replacement devices.
Zimmer’s recalls of the NexGen and Persona Knee implants have involved more than 50,000 devices.
Zimmer recalls 40,000 NexGen knee implants due to reports of defective screws that could cause loosening.
Zimmer recalls 11,658 Persona Trabecular Metal Tibial Plate knee implants for early loosening
Before those high profile recalls, knee implant manufacturers issued more than 700 recalls for their devices during a recent 10 year period. Consumers Union researched recall notices companies sent to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) between 2003 and 2013.
|Knee Implant Manufacturer||Number of Recalls|
|Smith & Nephew||11|
Knee Implant Manufacturers recalls compared to the total amount of recalls
Knee implant manufacturers are legally responsible for marketing their products properly and adequately warning consumers and health care professionals about their risks. Ideally, device makers properly design and test their products before they reach consumers. They are also responsible for monitoring their products for problems after they’ve received approval.
But critics argue that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process doesn’t do enough to keep unsafe devices off the market. The agency’s Premarket Notification, or 510(k) process, determines if a proposed knee implant is equivalent to a device already on the market. If so, the new implant doesn’t have to be so thoroughly tested before approval.
Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.
Terry Turner is an Emmy-winning, former television journalist. He is an associate member of the American Bar Association, the ABA’s Health Law group and a member of the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates. He holds six certificates in Health Literacy for Healthcare Professionals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a Washington-based investigative reporter, he routinely reported on health and medical policy issues before Congress, the FDA and other federal agencies. Terry received his B.A. in Media Arts from Lyon College.