What Is a Defective Hip Replacement?

A hip replacement is a procedure in which a surgeon removes a diseased or damaged hip joint and replaces it with a new, artificial joint. The hip joint actually consists of two parts—a ball-like structure at the top of the thighbone (or the femoral bone) and a socket (called the acetabulum) that the joint fits into. In replacement hips, the ball and socket components can be made of a number of different materials, including metal, ceramic, and plastic.

How Can a Hip Replacement Be Defective?

Sometimes an artificial hip can lead to problems, such as the ball becoming dislocated from the socket. This often happens because the artificial parts are smaller than the natural hip components. In other cases, a patient may be injured by a defective hip replacement.

Metal-on-metal hips – hips that feature a metal ball and socket – have been linked to a particularly dangerous defect. The constant friction between the metal ball and socket causes tiny pieces of metal to be released into the patient’s bloodstream and surrounding tissue. This condition, known as metallosis, can result in swelling, tissue damage, bone loss, and even blood poisoning in some cases. As a result, a number of makers of hip implants, such as DePuy and Stryker, have recalled many of their metal-on-metal hip models.

Why a Company May Be Liable for Selling a Defective Product

Consumers who are injured by a defective product can file a lawsuit against the manufacturer to seek compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Under product liability law, manufacturers have a duty to ensure that the products they place on the market are safe. Plaintiffs suing a company must therefore show that the product was defective in one of three ways:

  • The product’s design was defective, meaning the injury happened because there was a dangerous flaw in the way the product was designed to work.
  • There was a manufacturing defect, meaning something went wrong during the production process that made the product unsafe.
  • The company failed to give adequate warnings about the product, meaning the company failed to warn consumers about dangers that aren’t obvious to the average user.

In defective hip replacement lawsuits, plaintiffs typically argue that their metal-on-metal implants had a design defect, since the faulty design led to friction between the metal parts and the associated health problems. With a manufacturing defect, a plaintiff would argue that even if the metal-on-metal design was normally safe, the particular implant she received had a dangerous defect because it wasn’t built as intended. A plaintiff could also argue that if she had received adequate warnings about the dangers associated with the implant she wouldn’t have agreed to the procedure in the first place.

Theories of Liability

A product liability claim can be based on any of the following three theories:

  • Negligence
  • Strict Liability
  • Breach of Warranty

In a negligence cause of action, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the company knew or should have known about the dangerous condition but sold the product anyway. In a strict liability cause of action, on the other hand, a plaintiff doesn’t need to prove that the company knew or should have known about the danger, only that it sold a defective product that caused the plaintiff harm. Strict liability is commonly used against manufacturers who sell products to consumer along with those engaging in abnormally dangerous activities. Lastly, in a breach of warranty suit, the plaintiff claims that she was injured when she relied on a company’s promise that a product was safe for a certain use.

Filing a Lawsuit

If you think you may have received a defective hip replacement, it’s important that you consult with your doctor or surgeon to discuss your symptoms or injuries. You should also write down as much information as you can remember about when your symptoms started and what you’ve been experiencing. This information may be crucial in proving your injuries and obtaining compensation.