In 2020, a federal jury in Iowa awarded $3.55 million to Lori Nicholson and her husband Willis for injuries sustained as a result of the company’s much-litigated M2a Magnum metal-on-metal hip implant. The jury found in Nicholson’s favor following the conclusion that the M2a Magnum was defectively designed. Around the same time as the Iowa lawsuit, a federal judge in Missouri signed off on a $21 million judgment regarding the M2A Magnum.
Zimmer Biomet moved for a new trial and renewed its motion for judgment as a matter of law, but the district court denied these motions and, in a decision filed Aug. 24, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit affirmed that denial.
The appeals court found that the district court did not err in denying Zimmer Biomet’s motion for judgment as a matter of law on the punitive damages that totaled $3.55 million, determining that, “viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict,” a reasonable jury could have decided in favor of Nicholson.
Zimmer Biomet argued that the district court abused its discretion in failing to instruct the jury that the M2a Magnum’s instructions and warnings were “adequate as a matter of law.” The company argued that the omission of the instruction “was erroneous” as Iowa’s Civil Jury Instruction 1000.4 lists such instructions and warnings as a factor to consider in assessing “whether a product was reasonably safe.’”
According to the court, Nicholson admits that warnings and instructions are listed as a factor that could have instructed the jury. However, Nicholson said the court was not required to include the factor because evidence and issues presented to the jury did not involve the adequacy of the hip implant’s warnings and instructions. The appeals court agreed.
Metal-on-metal implants represent a notable failure of the medical device industry in the early 21st century. The hip implants were designed to be stronger and more durable, but they instead have been enveloped by higher failure rates and potential exposure to toxins from metal particles released by friction.
The FDA in 2016 mandated PMAs for metal-on-metal hip implants, and there are presently no FDA-approved metal-on-metal total hip replacement devices marketed in the U.S.