Dianne Pingel of Florida needed a hip replacement and she got much more than she bargained for when she elected the use of Stryker Orthopedics’ product referred to as Rejuvenate. Only three months after her surgery, she was experiencing pain in her hip despite clean x-rays and other scans of her hip. The search for what was causing Pingel’s pain led to the discovery of elevated amounts of heavy metal in her blood that was believed to have originated from her hip replacement device. Though the long-term implications of metal poisoning remain uncertain, Diane’s physicians were concerned enough about the elevated levels that they performed a revisionary surgery to extricate the Rejuvenate device.
In July 2012, Stryker announced the voluntary recall of Rejuvenate (as well as the ABG II Modular-neck hip stems) due to the possibility that corrosion of the hip replacements’ metallic parts can cause pain and other complications in the joint. This is Stryker’s second recall in only four years. In 2008, Stryker issued a similar recall of its Trident Hip Replacement System that was widely perceived to be as a response to both heightened scrutiny from the FDA as well as consistent complaints of pain and dislocation from people with the device. As of the present date, many of these pending claims and lawsuits involving the Trident System remain unresolved.
Tea Leave’s To The Future Litigation?
Dianne Pingel could be the first person to bring a lawsuit against Stryker Orthopedics following its Rejuvenate / Modular Neck Recall. Ms. Pingel’s case is now being eyed as a harbinger of what lies ahead for Stryker in the future. After Dianne Pingel first began to experience pain in her hip following the surgery, doctors began to notice that she had strange tissue growth in her hip surrounding the joint that would require surgery to remove. The surgery was performed in June of this year and a revision stem was inserted during the procedure in an attempt to correct the issue. Unfortunately, Ms. Pingle’s femur was fractured during the procedure and she has needed several surgeries since.
Though Ms. Pingle’s case presently remains as a stand-alone lawsuit, her case is being closely followed to see if a new wave of Stryker hip recipients with similar complaints come forward.
Depending the the number of forthcoming Stryker Rejuvenate lawsuits, the cases may be consolidated into a streamlined proceeding known as multidistrict litigation (MDL). Pursuant to the terms of MDL, the multiple lawsuits involving a singular issues are consolidated into a case within the Federal Court system for purposes of streamlining discovery and pre-trial matters. At the judges discretion, the cases could be separated or consolidated for trial. The theory behind and MDL is that it encourages economy of both judicial and litigation resources as the underlying issues remain widely similar amongst a large proportion of the impacted group.
Was The Stryker Recall Delayed?
Stryker’s recall of Rejuvenate followed the surfacing of sixty complaints to the FDA about the system. A Stryker hip replacement is supposed to last fifteen to twenty years, but many patients are finding themselves with the need to replace Rejuvenate parts less than two years after their surgeries. Dianne Pingel claims that Stryker sold defective hip replacements which have caused her pain and injuries. Considering that the Rejuvenate product was released only two years ago and sixty people have had complications or needed to replace the system, Pingel’s claims do not seem outrageous.
Potential for Widespread Lawsuits
The rising number of potential plaintiffs in Stryker’s modular hip recalls combined with the pending DePuy hip replacement cases already categorized as an MDL, seems to indicate that a Stryker MDL is forthcoming. Considering the implications for all parties involved, perhaps getting this cases firmly organized from the start will lend needed structure to a situation that is certainly riddled with emotion on both sides of the table.
Jonathan Rosenfeld is an attorney in Chicago, IL. Jonathan heads Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers a personal injury and medical negligence firm.