The fourth bellwether trial involving a DePuy Pinnacle hip replacement lawsuit will get underway next month in Texas federal court. The verdict in the case could provide insight into how other juries might decide claims that put forth similar allegations regarding a metal-on-metal version of the Pinnacle hip.
The U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, currently houses more than 9,000 hip implant lawsuits, all of which cite a version of DePuy Orthopaedics’ Pinnacle Hip Replacement system that utilizes the Ultamet liner. The mutidistrict litigation’s upcoming bellwether trial will be convened on September 5th, and will involve claims filed on behalf of seven Pinnacle hip recipients from New Jersey and New York.
Plaintiffs with cases pending in the Northern District of Texas allege that the all-metal design created by the Pinnacle/Ultamet liner configuration causes the implant to shed toxic metal ions that accumulate in the joint surround the hip, as well as the blood stream, resulting in adverse local tissue reactions and other complications that necessitate the need for revision surgery to replace the joint. They further assert that the metal-on-metal Pinnacle suffers from the same issues that prompted DePuy to announce a hip replacement recall for its ASR line of metal implants in August 2010, and question why the company has not taken similar action in regards to the Pinnacle/Ultamet liner combination.
The first Pinnacle hip trial concluded in October 2014, with a win for the defense.
A second bellwether case wrapped up in March 2016, when five plaintiffs were awarded a total of $500 million. However, the judge overseeing the case ultimately reduced that award to $151 million, in order to comply with Texas law governing punitive damages.
The litigation’s third trial ended in December 2016, when six Pinnacle recipients were awarded more than $1 billion. That judgment was later reduced to $543 million.
In June 2013, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration warned that metal-on-metal hips were associated with higher rates of early failure compared to hips with alternative configurations. All-metal hip patients were advised to talk to their doctor if they experienced any issues with their implants, while physicians were urged to consider metal ion blood testing and imaging for symptomatic patients.
In May 2011, DePuy Orthopaedics announced that it would phase out metal-on-metal hip implants, including the device named in Pinnacle hip lawsuits. According to The New York Times, the company cited slowing sales, as well as the FDA’s intention to impose stricter regulations on all-metal hip implants, as factors in its decision.