Multidistrict litigation (MDL) is another method that courts use to merge lawsuits. Unlike a class action lawsuit, individual cases remain separate in an MDL. However, certain phases of litigation are combined for all the lawsuits. This speeds up the process of trying hundreds of similar cases.
Knee replacement lawsuits focus on device complications experienced by patients. Many of these complications are caused by defective design. Patients who suffer severe medical device complications can seek legal help. Injured patients can win money to pay device revision or replacement, physical therapy and related treatment costs.
Why People Are Filing Knee Replacement Lawsuits
Between 2012 and 2017, more than 744,000 knee placement and revision surgeries took place in the United States. Knee replacement surgeries are generally considered safe. However, painful and debilitating complications can arise. Many of these problems occur because of defective knee devices. Some devices have been recalled by manufacturers because they caused so many problems for patients.
Medical device implants are difficult to repair, replace or remove. Patients who suffer serious side effects may require additional surgeries or other treatments.
Knee replacement lawsuits claim that medical device companies failed to warn patients about potential dangers. Plaintiffs seek legal damages to pay for treatment, costs of the device, lost income, and other expenses related to problems with the device.
Complications Mentioned in Knee Device Lawsuits
- Pain and aching
- Loosening of the joint
- Clicking or popping noises
- Mobility problems
- Metal allergy/sensitivity
Knee Replacement Recalls
At the heart of many artificial knee lawsuits are design or manufacturing problems. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration keeps a recall database for medical devices. According to the agency's database, there were nearly 1,300 recalls on knee replacement systems or components between 2003 and 2019.
The companies with the most recalls have also faced significant numbers of lawsuits:
- Zimmer - 355 recalls
- DePuy - 346 recalls
- Smith & Nephew - 139 recalls
- Biomet - 91 recalls
Zimmer Biomet has issued at least 95 recalls since Zimmer and Biomet merged in 2015. This is on top of the more than 400 knee device recalls issued by the separate companies before their merger.
Knee Implant Recalls Since 2003
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration Recall Database
Current Knee Replacement Litigation
Over the years, many lawsuits have been filed against knee device makers including:
- Stryker, Smith & Nephew
- Wright Medical
Today, most of the outstanding lawsuits are against Zimmer Biomet. Many of these were consolidated into multidistrict litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Plaintiffs seek legal damages related to medical bills, pain and suffering related to their faulty knee implants.
Zimmer Knee Lawsuits (MDL 2272)
In 2010, Zimmer issued recalls for multiple knee components in its NexGen Knee Replacement system. As details about the NexGen implant problems were made public, people who suffered pain, discomfort and immune system reactions to their knee implants began filing lawsuits against the company.
In 2011, federal lawsuits against Zimmer NexGen knee devices were consolidated into MDL 2272. More than 1,700 Zimmer lawsuits were filed in the MDL before trials began in 2015.
Several of the first few cases selected for bellwether trials were dismissed before they went before a jury. By June 2016, a single bellwether trial was complete and 15 others had been dismissed.
In June 2016, Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer issued a case management order that threw out cases regarding claims other than device defectiveness.
This "Lone Pine" order required claimants to "provide evidence or certification of loosening of a NexGen Flex femoral component, a 5950 NexGen MIS Stemmed tibial component, or any other tibial component implanted with a NexGen Flex femoral component." Claimants who failed to do so within the specified time frame had their cases dismissed.
MDL 2272 was closed in October 2019.
Zimmer Lawsuit Settlements
In January 2018, Judge Pallmeyer ordered both sides of the NexGen Knee Systems lawsuits to attend arbitration. Arbitration is often used in an attempt to reach a settlement. In February, the two sides came back with a proposed settlement offer. All pending cases were put on hold.
In June 2018, the plaintiffs' lawyers announced a settlement agreement with Zimmer Biomet over NexGen lawsuits.
According to Zimmer Biomet's 2018 Annual Report, the company informed the court it was finalizing a settlement that would resolve all but six of the outstanding cases in the MDL. Details of the settlement remain confidential.
Other Knee Replacement Lawsuits
Long before the NexGen lawsuits, Sulzer Medica paid $1 billion to settle about 4,000 knee device lawsuits. This settlement came before the company was acquired by Zimmer in 2003. Problems with the production of Sulzer's Natural Knee II Tibial Baseplate caused a small amount of oil to be left on the device. This led to post-implantation problems and adverse effects following the surgery. The company had issued a recall on the knee component in 2000.
Zimmer Biomet currently faces the most lawsuits, but other companies have also faced individual and class action lawsuits due to defective products. Some of the brands involved in complex litigation include:
- DePuy Synthes Attune Knee System (Johnson & Johnson)
- Exactech Optetrak Knee Replacement
- Duracon Unicompartmental Knee
- Stryker ShapeMatch Cutting Guides (not a knee joint component itself, but a tool used in knee surgery)
Individuals who have suffered complications from these devices should consider legal action.
Product liability lawsuits related to knee replacements differ from medical malpractice lawsuits.
Are Knee Replacement Lawsuits Still Being Filed?
At this time, most knee device lawsuits have been settled, dismissed or otherwise resolved. However, there are still recalls on artificial knee components happening regularly. It is possible more lawsuits could be filed in the future.
If you believe your knee device is defective, you should talk to your doctor right away to understand your medical options and consider legal recourse.