Boston – Spurred by an August recall and recent television ads by plaintiffs’ law firms, litigation over DePuy ASR hip implants is escalating.
At least a dozen class actions and individual suits have been filed in federal courts, alleging that the metal-on-metal hip replacement device was defectively designed. The suits also claim that Indiana-based DePuy Orthopaedics knew its hip replacements were failing at a higher than expected rate, but didn’t alert consumers or orthopedic surgeons.
“This [litigation] is going to be huge,” predicted Douglass Kreis, a partner at Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz, a Pensacola, Fla. personal injury firm that has been investigating DePuy hip implant complaints for months.
Kreis’s firm has filed one personal injury claim in California state court and two lawsuits in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The firm has conducted 175 client intakes regarding potential claims.
Kreis predicted that there will be up to 4,000 personal injury lawsuits nationwide.
“We think it’s going to be a pretty big litigation,” agreed Chris Seeger, a principal at Seeger Weiss, a New York-based personal injury law firm.
DePuy sold about 93,000 ASR Hip Resurfacing Systems and ASR XL Acetabular Systems. The company has reported that about 12 percent of patients required revision surgery within five years after implantation.
Dana Taschner, managing attorney at the Lanier Law Firm in Los Angeles, said the company has 50 clients so far and is fielding calls from scores of patients who underwent hip transplants using the DePuy ASR system.
DePuy Orthopaedics, an Indiana-based division of Johnson & Johnson, recalled the system on Aug. 26 after hundreds of patients complained to the Food and Drug Administration that the device failed soon after implantation.
British studies released in March 2010 showed that metal-on-metal implants, such as the ASR device, are potentially dangerous because they can generate large amounts of metallic debris as they wear. The metallic debris in turn can cause severe inflammation in some patients, causing pain in the groin, tissue death in the hip joint and loss of surrounding bone.
Seeger said the problem appears to be with the metal-on-metal design of the device, which “seems not to adhere well in the hip joint.”
“The problem is that if there’s a surgical revision required, the whole thing has to be re-done,” he said. “That’s a nasty, messy surgery.”