Updated: 12/17/2010 1:30 p.m.
Lawsuits over recalled hip implants made by Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) subsidiary DePuy Orthopedics are being consolidated under a federal district court judge in Ohio.
The multi-district litigation is slated to take place in the U.S. District Court for Northern Ohio under Judge David Katz, according to Montgomery, Ala.-based law firm Beasley Allen.*
Bundling the cases into a single litigation allows the lawyers involved to work together on discovery issues, according to the law firm. A similar process was instituted in the BP Oil Spill litigation.
Lawyers for several plaintiffs in addition to DePuy and Johnson & Johnson had requested that Katz oversee the proceedings.
“Based on Judge Katz’s experience with other MDLs, we expect that he will do a good job of pushing these cases along, whether it be by settlement or trial. Any existing cases filed in various federal courts around the country will likely soon be transferred to his court in order to begin litigation in his court," Beasley Allen shareholder Navan Ward said in prepared remarks.
In August, Warsaw, Ind.-based DePuy Orthopedics pulled its ASR XL Acetabular and ASR Hip Resurfacing systems off the market after receiving reports that a higher-than-normal number of patients required surgeries to correct or remove defective implants. The recall, which affects 93,000 people, was prompted by new data from the National Joint Registry of England and Wales showing “a five-year revision rate of approximately 12 percent for the ASR Hip Resurfacing System and approximately 13 percent for the ASR XL Acetabular System,” according to a DePuy press release announcing the recall.
The first lawsuit over the allegedly defective ASR devices came in June when a Florida woman accused the company of knowing about the device’s problems but failed to warn physicians. That suit was followed days later by three more from California residents who all had to have revision surgery after the implant partially detached from their hip sockets.
DePuy discontinued the cup and had phased it out by March, sending a letter to doctors that month warning that data from the Australian Medical Device Registry showed a “higher-than-expected” failure rate in traditional hip replacements, especially in smaller patients or those with weak bones.
Those moves followed two years of reports that the implant was prone to early failure, according to the New York Times. Dr. Stephen Graves, the director of the Australian database, told the newspaper that the company was too slow in pulling the device from the market. The Food & Drug Administration received about 300 complaints about the ASR cup since 2008, according to theTimes, with most complainants undergoing revision surgeries to replace the device. And the device’s co-developer, Dr. Thomas Schmalzried, said he and DePuy officials realized that the ASR cup might be more of a challenge to implant properly than competing cups.
DePuy introduced the ASR in the U.S. in 2005 after winning 510(k) clearance from the Food & Drug Administration for the products.
*Correction, Dec. 17, 2010: This article originally stated that a Beasley Allen attorney is serving on the plaintiff steering committee. This is not the case. Return to the corrected sentence.