U.S. JPML Consolidates Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG II Lawsuits

On February 19, 2013, plaintiff Robert Davis filed a motion with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) requesting consolidation of all federal Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG II lawsuits to the District of Minnesota. Davis argued that consolidation was appropriate because Rejuvenate and ABG II modular-neck stem cases involve common questions of fact and issues for discovery, and because a Stryker MDL would increase efficiency of the litigation as a whole.

Davis also stated that the District of Minnesota was the best location because 10 of the thirty lawsuits already filed are pending in that court. In a recent transfer order dated June 12, 2013, the JPML agreed, centralizing all Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG II lawsuits in Minnesota for coordinated pretrial proceedings.

Transfer Order Centralizes Stryker Lawsuits in Minnesota

In addition to Davis’ motion to centralize Stryker lawsuits, a second motion was also brought by a plaintiff in Illinois, seeking consolidation in the Northern District of Illinois. The defendants, however, also supported the District of Minnesota as the best location. Other suggestions included the Eastern District of Arkansas, the Northern District of California, the Northern District of Illinois, the District of New Jersey, and the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The JPML found that the actions involved common questions of fact, and that centralization will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation. It also stated that centralization will eliminate duplicative discovery, prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel, and the judiciary.

Agreeing with Davis, the panel stated that the District of Minnesota was appropriate because of the actions already pending there, because it has the support of the common defendants, and because it offers a relatively accessible and geographically central forum that enjoys favorable docket conditions.

The panel appointed District Court Judge Donavan F. Frank to oversee the proceedings.

Patients Suffer Pain and Inflammation

In July 2012, Stryker issued a voluntary hip recall for both the Rejuvenate and the ABG II implants, stating the components could rub against one another, causing fretting and corrosion that could deposit potentially dangerous metal ions into the tissues of the surrounding hip joint. Such contamination can increase the risk of inflammation, premature loosening, and early hip failure.

Unlike standard stem components used in hip replacement, the Rejuvenate and ABG II were designed as two-piece modular stems, intended to provide surgeons with more options when fitting the unique anatomy of various patients. It was only after the product was released on the market, however, that it was discovered the two metal components could wear against one another, shedding tiny fragments of metal debris into the patient’s body.

Some plaintiffs who were implanted with these hips have filed lawsuits against the company, stating they failed to provide adequate warnings about the health risks, and failed to conduct appropriate studies to determine public safety. Patients injured by these implants allegedly suffered complications like pain, inflammation, difficulty walking, and high blood levels of cobalt and/or chromium. Often, these complications lead to necessary revision surgery.

Both Devices Will Be Involved

Although Stryker supported the consolidation of federal Stryker lawsuits, they did request that the litigation not involve ABG II devices. They also wanted to change the name of the litigation to Rejuvenate Total Hip System Products Liability Litigation to clarify that it was handling only Rejuvenate cases.

The JPML, however, denied both requests, finding that the devices possess sufficient commonalities to warrant placement in a single MDL proceeding. They did add that the judge could establish separate tracks for the two devices to accommodate any differences.

In addition to the new Stryker MDL, state lawsuits have also been centralized in New Jersey, where at least 161 lawsuits are pending.