Earlier this month, the six-member U.S. Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation (JPML) agreed to consolidate 33 pending lawsuits against Stryker Medical before a federal judge in Boston, Massachusetts, granting the petition filed by plaintiffs.
The lawsuits allege that the LFIT V40 femoral head was defective and caused serious injury. Such consolidation is frequently done in cases where a number of lawsuits share the same cause of action and questions of fact. Gathering all similar cases before a single judge streamlines the process and conserves judicial resources.
The consolidated cases will be heard by the Honorable Indira Talwani, who was appointed by President Obama and confirmed in 2014. This will be Judge Talwani’s first experience in managing multi-district litigation. However, she is familiar with the issues surrounding Stryker LFIT V-40 litigation, having heard five individual cases prior to this.
Stryker attorneys have raised several objections to the consolidations. The plaintiffs’ petition was opposed on grounds that the small number of cases would make formal consolidation unnecessary and that “voluntary coordination” would be sufficient. The panel disagreed.
Out of concern for its corporate public image, Stryker also requested that the named defendant be changed to that of its subsidiary, Howmedica Osteonics, which actually manufactured the defective product. However, that request was rejected because the LFIT V-40 has been marketed as a Stryker brand product.
Finally, the defense requested that the cause of action be restricted to products that were subject to a problem known as “taper lock failure.” This specific problem was the subject of a voluntary recall last year of several thousand femoral heads manufactured before 2011. These components were prone to breakage. However, the JPML’s Transfer Order notes that the vast majority of lawsuits list corrosion and shedding of metallic particles as the primary problem, not the fracturing of a single component.
This is not the first time that Stryker Medical has been targeted by litigation over defective hip products. In 2014, the company reached a $1.4 billion settlement with plaintiffs in which it agreed to cover revision surgery for patients who needed replacement of their defective Rejuvenate and ABG II Modular Neck Hip Stems, which were prone to corrosion, causing side effects that included infections and a condition known as metallosis. Prior to that, it was Stryker’s Accolade TMZF Plus Hip Stem, which was subject to a 2011 Class 2 Device Recall due to an employee error that resulted in serious manufacturing defect.