A replacement hip is a medical device that replaces the joint where the thigh bone meets the hip. The implant—consisting of a ball resting inside a socket—typically allows patients to move normally and without pain. Unfortunately, some of these devices are thought to have caused further injuries and complications for patients.
As a result, several manufacturers have recalled their replacement hip models, including the DePuy ASR hip replacements and the Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG II models. Many patients who’ve been injured as a result of the defective hip implants have filed lawsuits seeking compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Some of these patients are attempting to have their cases heard as hip recall class action suits.
What is a Class Action Lawsuit?
In a standard lawsuit, an individual (the plaintiff) sues another individual or company (the defendant), claiming the defendant caused her some sort of harm. A class action lawsuit, on the other hand, is one where many plaintiffs—perhaps hundreds or even thousands of people—join in a suit as a group, called the “class.” Before moving forward, a class must be “certified.” The judge must determine that enough people have the same type of injury in common that it would be more efficient to have the claims heard in a single proceeding.
Class Action vs. an Individual Lawsuit
In an individual lawsuit, the plaintiff consults directly with her attorney to decide matters, such as how much money to accept in a settlement. However, in a class action lawsuit, plaintiffs who join the lawsuit are typically unable to consult with the lawyer in charge of the case on a regular basis. In addition, because class actions settlements bind all class members, a class action plaintiff generally doesn’t have the opportunity to reject a proposed settlement if she believes it won’t adequately compensate her for her injuries. However, it’s important to note that class actions suits can help lower the high cost of litigation for plaintiffs, since the plaintiffs involved aggregate their claims and pool their resources.
Product Liability for Defective Hip Implants
In lawsuits against manufacturers like DePuy and Stryker, plaintiffs argue that the companies knew or should have known that the implants were defective and potentially unsafe for patients. Some of these suits claim that the replacement hips the companies provided had a defective design, meaning the design itself created an unacceptable risk of injury to patients. Other suits contend that the implants were manufactured defectively, meaning something went wrong in the manufacturing process that made the implants unsafe. Lastly, the suits also claim that the manufacturers failed to give adequate warnings about the implants so that doctors and patients could make fully informed decisions regarding the risks involved.
Class Action Lawsuits and Multi-District Litigation
Soon after DePuy recalled its ASL Acetabular hip implants in August 2010, a large number of cases were filed against the company in federal courts throughout the United States. So far, none of the cases against hip implant makers have been certified to proceed as a hip recall class action lawsuit. However, due to the sheer number of complaints against DePuy and the high likelihood that these cases dealt with very similar injuries, these types of cases have been consolidated. As a result, these suits will be heard in Ohio regardless of the federal court where the individual cases were filed. Similarly, any individual lawsuits against Stryker for injuries thought to have been caused by its Rejuvenate and ABG II implants will be consolidated and heard in Minnesota.
This process of consolidating a large number of federal cases from different states is called Multi-District Litigation (MDL). MDL is different from a class action lawsuit in a number of ways. First, MDL plaintiffs retain their own lawyers, while class action plaintiffs are represented by a single lawyer or a team of lawyers acting on behalf of the entire class. Second, the cases in MDL will be heard on their individual merits, unlike the combined claims in a class action suit.
If you’ve been injured by a defective replacement hip you may want to discuss your litigation options with an attorney. A lawyer will be able to explain the intricacies of individual suits, hip recall class action suits, and multi-district litigation with you.