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Bellwether Cases to be Chosen for Zimmer NexGen Knee MDL

Nearly 1,000 plaintiffs who filed Zimmer NexGen knee lawsuits have had their complaints consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL) No. 2272. Although most plaintiffs may possibly wait several more years for their individual trials, pretrial proceedings are moving forward. Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer of the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois has determined the process by which the bellwether cases will be chosen.

The products liability multidistrict litigation was created in August 2011 by the U.S. Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) for the purposes of improving the efficiency of the litigation process and avoiding duplicative discovery. Bellwether cases in an MDL are the initial trials that serve to provide a model and an indicator of possible trends in litigation for the rest of the complaints. Attorneys for the bellwether cases can assess how juries respond to particular issues and evidence. It is anticipated that the trial dates for these bellwether cases may be set for early 2015.

Judge determines selection process

Not all Zimmer NexGen knee lawsuits will be eligible to be a bellwether trial. Only those that were added to the MDL before January 25, 2013 may qualify. Additionally, the lawyers for those plaintiffs must have completed a Fact Sheet by April 25, 2013 that includes any relevant medical authorizations.

Additional deadlines have also been set for pretrial proceedings. Judge Pallmeyer has ordered that case-specific discovery will begin early in July 2013. In February 2014, the parties will recommend which cases will be designated bellwether trials. The next steps in the pretrial proceedings will include witness disclosures and challenges.

Zimmer NexGen knee lawsuits share allegations

All of the lawsuits in a multidistrict litigation share common allegations. The plaintiffs in the Zimmer MDL all underwent total knee replacement surgery and received NexGen knee implants. Many of the plaintiffs allege that they experienced complete failure of the devices, which in many cases necessitated a revision surgery to remove the allegedly defective implant and replace it. Revision surgeries present additional risks to patients, including potential side effects such as adverse reactions to anesthesia, infection, and bleeding.

These plaintiffs further allege that the defendants failed to adequately warn patients and healthcare professionals about the risk of device failure with the Zimmer knee replacement systems. They also allege that the devices themselves were defective in design. The plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages to cover medical expenses, rehabilitation expenses, disability, lost earnings, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering. At this time, it is unknown if any plaintiffs will negotiate a Zimmer knee injury settlement.

The first device of the Next Generation (NexGen) Complete Knee Solution System was approved by the FDA in 1999, and the company has sold more than three million implant devices since. In their marketing efforts, the company stated that this type of knee implant was specifically designed to more closely mimic the natural movements of a patient’s knee in order to facilitate better range of motion. The marketing campaign specifically targeted patients who are younger and wish to maintain an active lifestyle. However, many of the patients who have undergone surgery with the NexGen system have reported significant knee replacement complications that limit their mobility.