Saturday, December 27, 2014 - An early December report citing court records listed that over 7,000 cases have been filed in the multidistrict litigation aimed at the alleged faulty Depuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip replacements, and many experts peg the final total to eventually top 8,000. The MDL has likely seen most of its potential claimants already file suit for damages caused from complications due to the faulty hip replacements, but the court records reflecting the claims filed in November continue to show steady growth in the lawsuit with dozens joining every month.
The issues with the Pinnacle hip replacements allegedly stem from the metal-on-metal design. This arrangement causes the durability of metal ball and socket joint within hip replacements to erode much faster than comparable hip replacements that employ alternative materials. This can lead to chronic pain and swelling for patients and also exposes them to the more serious problem of premature failure, requiring the implant to be surgically replaced far ahead of schedule. Worn down Depuy Pinnacle hip implants can also cause tiny metal particles to wear off the implant and enter a patient‘s blood stream, causing damage to the soft tissues due to a metal ion poisoning known as metallosis. The Pinnacle hip replacements have yet to be recalled and the manufacturer claimed the discontinuation of their sale in August of 2013 was due to slowing demand, not safety concerns.
The Pinnacle hip device is not the first Depuy Orthopaedics Inc. metal-on-metal hip replacement product to reach litigation. Depuy, a division of Johnson & Johnson, had to recall their ASR XL Acetabular System in August of 2010 after years of medical complications. These hip devices shared many of the same problems that the Pinnacle hip replacements face, including an alarming five-year failure rate reported around 13 percent and similar structural and muscular complications cited in the Pinnacle lawsuits due to metallosis. Johnson & Johnson eventually settled with plaintiffs for more than $2 billion in the ASR XL Acetabular System MDL, with claimants receiving an average settlement of around $250,000.
In both the Pinnacle and ASR XL Acetabular System hip replacement lawsuits, a main cause of the hip complications come from the metal Ultamet liner. The Ultamet liner is intended to improve the fit and mobility of the ball and socket joint used in hip replacements, however it‘s been identified in the lawsuit as a contributor to the small metal particles released by the hip device and is connected to the hip replacement‘s premature failure.
In May of 2011 the FDA instructed Depuy to conduct post market surveillance on the Pinnacle hip replacements shortly after the ASR XL Acetabular System was recalled, which found many of the same problems with other metal-on-metal replacements present in the Pinnacle. Claimants and others following the case are still wondering if Depuy will eventually choose to recall the Pinnacle hip replacement, as similar devices such as the ASR XL Acetabular System and hip replacement manufacturer Styker‘s July 2012 recall of two of its metal-on-metal hip devices, Rejuvenate Modular and ABG II Modular-Neck Hip Stems, have already taken that step.
The multidistrict litigation is currently pending in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas. The litigation continues to grow as affected claimants join the lawsuit to be compensated for lost wages, medical bills, and unnecessary pain and suffering caused by the hip replacements.