Every year, hip replacements help thousands of older Americans by relieving joint and arthritis pain. However, defective hip implants can cause injuries that require costly corrective surgeries and treatments. A number of manufacturers have voluntarily recalled their defective implant models after the replacement hips failed at high rates.
As a result, many patients have successfully recovered damages for their injuries. This article explains what makes a hip replacement defective and the legal actions that can be taken after being injured by a replacement hip.
Health Issues with Defective Hip Replacements
A replacement hip may be defective if it fails shortly after surgery or if the implant parts cause injuries. When manufacturers discover that their product is defective, they often issue voluntarily recalls of the faulty products. For example, Johnson & Johnson voluntarily recalled the DuPuy ASR Implants and stopped sales of metal liners used in the Ultamet and Complete Hip Systems because of the health risks caused by metal debris.
Although several types of hip replacements are available on the market, metal-on-metal implants are the subject of most recalls because of their high failure rate. Friction between the implants’ metal components can cause the hips to rapidly deteriorate, releasing metallic particles into the body. This deterioration has been linked to various health risks, including:
- Dislocated hip
- Fractured bones
- Loosened implant parts
- Joint infection
- Swelling, inflammation, and pain near the implant
- Metal toxicity caused by broken implant debris
Product Liability Law
Consumers are protected from defective and dangerous products under products liability law. The laws vary from state-to-state, but in general, manufacturers are responsible for any injuries caused by their defective products. Manufacturers have a duty to make sure that their products meet the expectations of ordinary implant users.
To recover damages, an injured user must show that the implant was defective and that those defects caused the product to be unreasonably dangerous. There are three types of flaws that can make a hip replacement defective: design defects, defects in warnings, or manufacturing defects. Although manufacturing defects sometimes occur, design defects and defects in warnings are much more common among replacement hip systems.
Replacement hips with design defects are faulty because of the way the manufacturer designed the implant. In other words, the product’s design includes a dangerous flaw. To determine if the design made the product unreasonably dangerous, courts look at the manufacturer’s decisions during the design stage.
For example, many patients contend that metal-on-metal artificial hips contain a design defect. This is because friction between the metal components can cause the hips to corrode at a high rate, releasing metal particles into the body. The particles often lead to a condition known as metallosis, which causes pain, swelling, and at times, metal poisoning. So even if your metal-on-metal replacement hip was flawlessly assembled, the device’s metal construction may make your artificial hip defective by design.
Defect in Warning
Inadequate warnings can also make a hip replacement defective. A defect in warning is when the manufacturer fails to give adequate warnings about the dangers and risks associated with a product. Manufacturers generally have a duty to warn consumers of hidden dangers and provide instructions about how to safely use the product. For instance, metal-on-metal implants may be found to have a defect in warning if the manufacturer failed to inform doctors and users about the risk of metal implant deterioration and the complications that can occur as a result.
Filing a Lawsuit
If you were injured as a result of a design defect, defective warning, or manufacturing defect, a lawsuit can be filed against the manufacturer of the replacement hip. In successful lawsuits, implant users may be awarded damages for any medical costs, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. However, lawsuits should be brought in a timely manner because a law called a statute of limitations will limit the amount of time you have to file a suit. In most states, the time period in which to bring a product liability suit is two years.