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Request to Stay in DePuy Pinnacle MDL Granted

U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade of the Northern District of Texas has granted a request to stay most of the pending DePuy Pinnacle lawsuits in multidistrict litigation (MDL) No. 2244, with the exception of a small selection of bellwether trials. These bellwether cases are moving forward toward their trial dates. The request to stay was filed by all involved parties and the Judge’s Order granting the request was issued on September 30, 2013. It has been anticipated that the stay will remain in effect until the conclusion of the bellwether trials. Pending any possible delays, the trials are expected to begin in September 2014.

Bellwether trials expected to hint at future trends

MDL No. 2244 centralizes all complaints filed against DePuy Orthopaedics with regards to the company’s Pinnacle medical device, a type of artificial hip replacement. The MDL was formed by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) in May 2011 for the purpose of increasing the efficiency of the litigation process. The formation of an MDL is a common occurrence when large numbers of plaintiffs file similar lawsuits against a particular defendant. By joining the MDL, the plaintiffs retain their rights to an individual trial, yet share pretrial proceedings to avoid duplicative discovery and contradictory rulings. Currently, there are more than 4,800 DePuy Pinnacle lawsuits pending in MDL No. 2244.

The bellwether cases were selected as the first cases to go to trial. Bellwether trials in an MDL serve as a method of gauging the reactions of juries to evidence and testimony. Most often, the involved parties use bellwether trials as a means to anticipate future trends in the litigation. For example, if a substantial jury award is handed down for the first bellwether trial, the defendants may be more amenable toward settlement negotiations for future cases.

The remaining DePuy Pinnacle complaints in the MDL will also have their day in court. A motion to stay is not the same action as a motion to dismiss; these lawsuits have simply been placed on hold for the time being. Granting a request to stay is a common occurrence in mass litigation proceedings.

Allegations similar to ASR hip implants

These lawsuits are not the only complaints DePuy Orthopaedics faces. In addition to the DePuy Pinnacle MDL, there is another MDL pending against the company that has centralized complaints filed with regards to the company’s ASR hip system. These lawsuits were filed in response to the DePuy ASR recall, which was a voluntary recall issued by the company that involved the ASR hip replacement system. The recall was issued after safety issues came to light. Specifically, the hip implant was shown to have a five-year failure rate of 13 percent, which was significantly higher than expected. In contrast, the Pinnacle hip system is still on the market.

The ASR MDL No. 2197 is proceeding in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. There are approximately 8,000 cases pending in that MDL. Despite the defendants’ failure to recall the Pinnacle system, the allegations regarding both the ASR and Pinnacle systems are remarkably similar.

Many plaintiffs claim that the implant devices have loosened, causing early failure of the device. There have also been many complaints of metallosis, or heavy metal poisoning. As the metal components of the hip devices rub against each other, the friction releases metal ions into the blood stream. Metallosis can cause inflammation, tissue necrosis, and bone deterioration. Other medical hip replacement complications listed in the complaints include bone fractures, implant dislocation, and premature revision surgery.