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Zimmer NexGen Knee Implant Lawsuits Consolidated In MDL

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Zimmer NexGen knee replacement patients won an initial battle to have their actions consolidated into an MDL. Though Zimmer opposed consolidation, the patients urged the federal court to consolidate the cases for efficiency in discovery and case management. All Zimmer knee cases will be assigned to the Honorable Rebecca R. Pallmeyer of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

What Is An MDL?

"MDL" is shorthand for "multi-district litigation". Many people may refer to an MDL as a "class action", but there are some important differences between an MDL and a class action.

In a class action, only a few people (the class representatives) sue on behalf of a large number of other people (the class). In multi-district litigation, each individual plaintiff maintains his or her own claim, though the claims are consolidated for discovery and other pre-trial purposes.

Although some states have MDL litigation, most MDLs occur in federal court. For MDLs like the Zimmer NexGen Knee Implant MDL, the process begins when users of the device begin experiencing side effects or physical problems. As these patients become injured from this medical device, they begin filing lawsuits across the country. Because these lawsuits each involve similar claims (a defective and dangerous knee implant) and similar injuries, the federal court will consolidate all of the claims in front of one judge.

The Zimmer Knee Lawsuit MDL

Read the Court's Transfer Order Consolidating Zimmer NexGen Knee Implant Lawsuits

In its order, the MDL Panel found 73 related actions pending against Zimmer alleging claims that Zimmer's artificial knee components are defective.

The subject actions share factual issues arising from allegations that Zimmer's "high flex" femoral components (i.e., the Cruciate Retaining (CR) and Legacy Posterior Stabilized (LPS) components, and the "Gender Solutions" versions thereof) and/or the MIS Tibial Component ["MIS Total Knee Procedure Stemmed Tibial Component Fixed Bearing Precoat] — all of which are used in knee replacement surgery — are prone to premature loosening, causing affected individuals pain and loss of movement, and often forcing them to undergo revision surgery. The actions also raise factual issues as to whether the aforementioned high-flex components actually provide an individual with any increase in flexion.

MDL Transfer Order

Zimmer knee devices included in the MDL are:

  • Zimmer NexGen "High-Flex" femoral components, including Cruciate Retaining (Zimmer CR Flex); Zimmer Legacy Posterior Stabilized (Zimmer LPS Flex); and Gender Solutions (Zimmer Gender Solutions High-Flex Knee)
  • Zimmer MIS Tibial component (MIS Total Knee Procedure Stemmed Tibial Component Fixed Bearing Precoat)

Zimmer vigorously opposed consolidation of these cases, arguing that the consolidated cases include eight (8) products, six (6) different design teams, six (6) sets of design history documents, and eight (8) different 510(k) regulatory applications. However, the MDL Panel was not persuaded. The Panel's review of the record showed that "the distinctiveness of the various femoral components is not as clear-cut as Zimmer contends" and certain 510(k) submissions "reflect significant similarities among the subject femoral components".

Problems With Zimmer NexGen Knee Implants

Orthopedic surgeons began noticing problems with certain Zimmer NexGen knee implants as early as 2006. According to a New York Times report, Dr. Richard A. Berger had been paid more than $8 million by Zimmer and began implanting Zimmer NexGen CR Flex knee devices into patients in 2005. By early 2006, X-rays revealed lines where the implant met the thigh bone, meaning the knee implant was loose and not completely fused. Patients were experiencing pain due to the loose artificial joint. Dr. Berger reported the problem to Zimmer, but the company did not have adequate data because Zimmer did not test the device in patients before selling it.

Dr. Berger and Dr. Craig Della Valle performed a study finding that the uncemented Zimmer knee failed in 8.3% [9 out of 108] patients studied.

Potential complications include:

  • Knee Replacement Failure
  • Revision or Replacement of Artificial Knee Device
  • Loosening of Replacement Knee Implants
  • Knee and Joint Pain
  • Difficulty Standing or Walking

After the New York Times report, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wrote to Zimmer asking the company to disclose how Zimmer tracked long-term performance of its orthopedic devices.

[Read Sen. Grassley's letter to Zimmer here]

Zimmer's Targeting Of Lawyers

Earlier this week, Alex Nussbaum and David Voreacos of Bloomberg News wrote about how Zimmer has been harassing plaintiffs' lawyers will letters and lawsuits claiming that commentary about the Zimmer NexGen knee problems was hurting the company's image. Zimmer sued at least seven (7) law firms for various comments leading law professor David Logan to describe Zimmer's conduct as "like putting a loaded gun on the table for negotiations."

Read more on this subject:

[More on Zimmer]

(c) Copyright 2011 Brett A. Emison