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Attorneys’ Motions to Withdraw From 44 Zimmer Knee Lawsuits Denied by Judge Pallmeyer

According to court dockets, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois has centralized just over 1,000 Zimmer knee lawsuits under Honorable Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer for coordinated pretrial proceedings. The Zimmer NexGen Products Liability Litigation (MDL no. 2272) was formed in 2011 to more efficiently handle the growing number of claims involving the manufacturer’s problematic line of knee implants.

In recent Zimmer knee replacement litigation news, Harris Martin reports that Judge Pallmeyer has denied a request by plaintiffs’ counsel to withdraw from 44 cases, saying the grounds provided were insufficient and any remaining pro se claimants would have limited means to participate in the MDL proceedings.

Plaintiff’s counsel asks to withdraw from 44 cases

The defendant says the counsel’s motions “signaled that a substantial number of the 1000-plus cases in this MDL have no merit,” an allegation that is denied by the plaintiff’s Zimmer NexGen knee lawyer team. The plaintiffs’ counsel argued that litigation strategies could not be agreed upon between attorneys and clients and that withdrawals of such a few number of cases will have little impact on the MDL process, which is still in the early stages.

Pallmeyer countered by saying, “Most significantly, counsel have not offered any concrete or specific grounds for withdrawal…Counsel asserts, without specifics, that there has been a ‘breakdown in the attorney-client relationship,’ and ‘disagreement in the handling of the litigation.’” Pallmeyer ultimately denied the withdrawal, saying that discrepancy on the handling of a case is nothing new and does not warrant such measures. The judge also denied the possibility of oral arguments for withdrawal based on causation issues.

1,000 + Zimmer knee lawsuits transferred to MDL

In multidistrict litigation, all plaintiffs retain the right to their own trial and verdicts, unlike a class action, where multiple claimants band together and share in whatever settlement or court award is negotiated or handed down.  An MDL may be established when many lawsuits against a common defendant contain similar issues of fact and allegations. Designed to lessen burdens on the federal judicial system and reduce the chances of inconsistent rulings, the MDL streamlines the discovery process by consolidating lawsuits in a single court for pretrial proceedings. If no settlements are reached, or the claim isn’t selected as a bellwether case, each complaint is remanded to its original court of filing for final resolution.

Judge Pallmeyer argued that allowing plaintiffs in the MDL to continue without the benefit of legal counsel would overwhelm the discovery process and undermine the chief goals of the MDL mechanism. Pallmeyer said “Sending dozens of cases back to their home districts at this stage would multiply that problem.”

Nexgen plaintiffs allege crippling injuries and complications

At the center of allegations in Zimmer knee lawsuits is that the company designed and manufactured defective medical devices with their range of High Flex knee implants that left recipients with permanent injuries.

Some of the complications reported by patients who received a NexGen knee replacement include:

  • Loosening of the device
  • Inability to stand for long periods
  • Chronic pain
  • Decreased mobility
  • Strange popping noises emanating in the knee joint
  • Inflammation around the implant
  • Need for revision surgery

Judge Pallmeyer has said that bellwether trials for the Nexgen MDL should be ready by early 2015. These initial representative cases will be closely monitored, as their outcomes may help predict the future of Zimmer knee litigation.