The U.K.’s first trial involving a metal-on-metal version of DePuy Orthopaedics Pinnacle Hip Replacement System got underway this week in London.
The case involves 341 plaintiffs and according to Bloomberg News, is one of the largest product liability group actions to reach a British court.
All of the plaintiffs involved in the action accuse DePuy of selling a defective implant, which they claim was wrongly marketed as having lower wear rates than competitor devices.
Plaintiffs further allege that the hip replacement’s all-metal design caused toxic metal ions to be released into the body, resulting in premature failure of the device and a range of other health problems.
The first phase of the trial will determine whether DePuy Orthopaedics is responsible for the plaintiffs’ injuries. If the company is found liable, further proceedings will be held to determine compensation.
According to Bloomberg, additional hip replacement lawsuits have been filed in U.K. courts against every device manufacturer that markets metal-on-metal devices. Those cases have been delayed pending the outcome of the DePuy Pinnacle trial.
Metal-on-metal hip replacements have been the subject of controversy for over a decade, both in the U.K. and he United States. While they were marketed as a durable alternative for younger patients with a more active lifestyle, data indicates that metal ions released from the implants increase the risk for adverse local tissue reactions, pseudotumor formation, and other problems that can result in premature failure of the device failure.
In January 2013, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration warned that metal-on-metal hips were more likely to fail prematurely compared to implants made from other materials. 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.
DePuy Orthopaedics and its parent company, Johnson & Johnson, have been named defendants in more than 9,000 U.S. lawsuits involving the metal-on-metal Pinnacle hip, which utilizes the Ultamet liner. Most of these lawsuits are pending in a consolidated litigation now underway in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, where a fourth bellwether trial is currently underway.
Two earlier Pinnacle hip trials produced verdicts in favor of plaintiffs, while one jury returned a verdict for the defendants.
In November 2013, DePuy Orthopaedics announced a $2.5 billion hip replacement settlement to resolve clams involving its ASR line of metal-on-metal hips. The company issued a worldwide recall for ASR hip implants after data suggested the devices were associated with an unacceptable rate of premature failure.
In February 2014, Biomet Inc. agreed to a $56 million settlement that resolved many of the hip replacement lawsuits involving its M2a line of metal-on-metal hips.
Last November, Wright Medical agreed to pay $240 million to settle nearly 1,300 cases involving its all-metal Conserve, Dynasty and Lineage hip replacements. Earlier this month, the company agreed to add $90 million to the settlement in order to resolve the remainder of that litigation.