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Stryker claimed its Rejuvenate and ABG II modular-neck hip stems would provide durability and versatility. Instead, corrosion led to the release of toxic metal into patients’ bodies, causing painful, often permanent side effects and leading to difficult revision surgeries. Now, the company is facing more than a thousand lawsuits in state and federal courts, with more expected in the near future.
The company recalled both its Rejuvenate and ABG II systems in 2012. Under the terms of the recall, Stryker offered to reimburse patients and surgeons for testing, treatment, revision surgery and other costs associated with the recall. But for many patients whose quality of life has been severely affected by a Stryker implant, that isn’t enough.
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Lawsuit Allegations and Plaintiffs Suing Stryker
Patients, who are often younger and more active than typical hip replacement candidates, received their Stryker implants with the promise that the devices would last for decades. However, some recipients began experiencing side effects just months after implantation. The implants often require revision within two years.
Dianne Pingel has had 5 surgeries related to her two Stryker implants, one in each hip. Metallosis led to a massive pseudotumor in one hip. She experienced a broken femur during her first revision, and subsequently needed her leg reconstructed; she lost so much tissue and bone in one leg that her implant kept dislocating. A titanium rod keeps her leg intact, and she has trouble with everyday activities like tying her shoes.
Branko Obradovic had revision surgery 15 months after receiving his Stryker implant. He now finds himself unable to sit in the same position for extended periods of time; just getting out of the car now takes him up to 10 minutes as he stretches stiff muscles. Unbeknownst to him at the time of his surgery, his surgeon was a paid Stryker consultant.
After just six months, Scott Ebert underwent revision surgery due to metallosis, and now suffers from chronic pain, which he says has ruined his life.
Scott Ebert began showing symptoms just two months after he had his Rejuvenate hip system implanted. He suffered from tinnitus, excruciating foot and hip pain, and strange bruises. After just six months, he underwent revision surgery due to metallosis, and now suffers from chronic pain, which he says has ruined his life. He believes his case was the one that prompted Stryker’s recall.
Tracy Sponer received a defective Rejuvenate implant. Court papers in Sponer’s case point out that alloys similar to the one used in the Rejuvenate and ABG II systems have been known to be prone to corrosion since the 1980s. Stryker insisted its formula was free of those problems–a claim that proved devastatingly inaccurate.
Uniformly, patients suing Stryker have undergone complicated and painful revision surgeries to correct the side effects of their artificial hips, and are left with lingering and debilitating side effects. They accuse Stryker of misleading the public and negligence in failing to properly test its devices and ultimately selling a defective product.
Plaintiffs in Stryker lawsuits may be eligible to receive compensation for a variety of reasons.
- Medical expenses: A defective Stryker hip implant can lead to substantial expenses, from doctors’ visits and diagnostic procedures such as MRIs to the cost of revision surgery and physical therapy. Revision surgery can cost as much as $50,000.
- Lost earnings: Patients with a defective hip implant may miss work due to a recovery period or be unable to perform their jobs, leading to significant lost past and future wages.
- Pain and suffering: The side effects of a defective hip implant can be painful and debilitating, significantly impacting a patient’s quality of life and making everyday activities difficult or unpleasant.
- Loss of consortium: The lifestyle changes, stress (financial and otherwise), and other existential effects of a defective hip implant can degrade family and spousal relationships, which these damages are designed to account for.
- Punitive damages: These damages are meant as a deterrent to future wrongdoing. They are awarded in cases where a defendant’s behavior was determined by the courts to be particularly egregious.
Verdicts, Settlements and Ongoing Suits
The cost of the recall and litigation is expected to balloon to more than $1 billion. Stryker had already spent $510 million as of September 2013. Cases have been consolidated in state courts in New Jersey and Florida, and federal court in Minnesota.
December 2013 saw the first settlements in New Jersey cases. Stryker settled with four plaintiffs for an undisclosed amount and failed to reach a settlement with two others. Other negotiations, and the bulk of the cases, remain pending.
Federal cases against Stryker have been consolidated into multidistrict litigation in Minnesota. In March of 2014, the lead magistrate Franklin L. Noel ordered that lawyers identify 3 to 5 bellwether cases that would serve to broadly distinguish different categories of cases. Those bellwether cases are scheduled to go to trial in 2015. Judge Noel also intends to reach out to the judges in the Florida and New Jersey cases in an effort to coordinate settlement of all the cases.
- Singer, S. (2013, January 27). Artificial hips corrode, poisoning some patients, local lawsuits say. The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
- Sponer v. Howmedica Osteonics Corporation, d/b/a Stryker Orthopaedics. (2012, November 7). Retrieved March 31, 2014.
- Walker, J. (2013, October 23). Stryker says hip recall may cost up to $1.13 billion. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
- Markos, K. (2013, December 17). Stryker corp. settles first batch of hip-implant lawsuits. The Record. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
- Stryker Corporation. (2012, June). Rejuvenate modular / ABG II modular-neck stem voluntary recall. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
- MDL No. 13-2441. (2014, March 25). In re: Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG II Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation: Amended Pretrial Order no. 12. Retrieved March 31, 2012.