Discovery – the period in which both plaintiffs and defendants gather information pertaining to a case – has now ended in the multidistrict litigation involving Wright Medical Technology’s allegedly defective Conserve hip implants.
Alleged problems with metal-on-metal hip implants have prompted thousands of lawsuits.
Lawsuits were first filed following claims that the metal components in the Conserve artificial hip replacement systems could erode or fail entirely. If erosion occurs, patients may also be at risk of metallosis, a type of poisoning caused by the buildup of metal particles in the bloodstream. Failure of the hip implants could require immediate medical treatment and put individuals at risk of serious harm. Hundreds of complaints to the FDA have already been made, and in February 2012, a panel of federal judges ordered that lawsuits involving four Wright devices - Conserve Femoral Hip Surface Replacement, Conserve Plus Total Resurfacing Hip System, Conserve Total A-Class Advanced Metal, and Conserve Total Hip System – be consolidated to the U.S. District Court for the North District of Georgia.
The judge overseeing the litigation, Judge William S. Duffey, Jr., released a Second Amended Detailed Discovery Plan in May 2013, setting out the discovery process, which began on May 2, 2012. The plan laid out the various stages of discovery, including the deposition of witnesses and experts. It also set the date (October 18, 2013) by which parties were to submit proposed bellwether trial selections.
According to the discovery plan, all expert discovery ended on November 15, 2013.
Now that both sides have had a chance to lay their cards on the table, there are a number of options available. Bellwether case selection will soon begin, though should either side believe they have sufficiently demonstrated the strength of their case, they could request a summary judgment. Both Wright and the plaintiffs will also, no doubt, be watching other metal-on-metal hip implant lawsuits closely, giving particular attention to Johnson & Johnson’s recent $4 billion settlement over its DePuy hip implants.
The alleged problems with metal-on-metal hip implants have prompted thousands of lawsuits on behalf of injured patients, and an FDA panel investigation which found there is little need for meta-on-metal implants in the market. The products have not been removed by the FDA, however, despite some voluntary recalls by medical device companies. The future of the devices is unclear, and litigation against Wright Medical Technology continues.