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Consolidation Requested for Johnson & Johnson Hip Implant Lawsuits

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DePuy hip replacement lawsuits involving the recalled Johnson & Johnson ASR hip implant could be consolidated in a multidistrict litigation. Such a consolidation would allow all Johnson & Johnson DePuy ASR recall lawsuits to be coordinated under one judge for pretrial litigation to avoid duplicative discovery, inconsistent rulings and to conserve the resources of the parties, witnesses and the court.

A motion requesting the consolidation into a DePuy class action was filed on September 3 with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation on behalf of a woman who originally filed a Johnson & Johnson DePuy ASR hip implant lawsuit in California federal court. The motion asks that all Johnson & Johnson DePuy ASR recall lawsuits be centralized in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey before Judge Susan D. Wigenton. Johnson & Johnson’s corporate headquarters are located in New Jersey. The panel is expected to hear arguments on the motion in November.

When lawsuits are consolidated as a multidistrict litigation, each retains its own identity. If the MDL process does not resolve the cases, they are transferred back to the court where they originated for trial. The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation of the United States Courts was created in 1968. Since then, it has consolidated hundreds of thousands of lawsuits that involved high numbers of plaintiffs, including litigation over asbestos, breast implants and other matters.

Johnson & Johnson announced the recall of the DePuy ASR Hip Implant system after data from the National Joint Registry of England and Wales showed that 1 out of every 8 patients (12%-13%) who had received the recalled devices had to undergo revision surgery within five years of receiving it. The recall involved the ASR XL Acetabular System, a hip socket used in traditional hip replacement, and the ASR Hip Resurfacing System, a partial hip replacement that involves placing a metal cap on the ball of the femur. Only the ASR XL Acetabular System was approved for use in the United States.

At least 93,000 people around the world have received one of the recalled hip replacements. Symptoms that an ASR hip implant has failed, if present, may include an increase in pain or difficulty walking.

The DePuy ASR is a large diameter, metal-on-metal hip replacement system. Metal-on-metal hip implants, which were introduced about a decade ago, have ball-and-socket joints that are made from metals like cobalt and chromium. They became popular because it was thought that metal-on-metal would be more durable than earlier types of implants.

According to a report in The New York Times, such hip implants have been used in about one-third of the approximately 250,000 hip replacements performed annually in this country. However, many of the nation’s leading orthopedic surgeons have reduced or stopped use of these devices because of concerns that they can cause severe tissue and bone damage.

No one knows why the DePuy ASR hip implant is prone to early failure. According to The New York Times, studies in recent years indicate that metal-on-metal devices can quickly begin to wear. This creates a large amount of metallic debris that is absorbed into a patient’s body. The metallic debris can cause inflammatory reactions that lead to pain in the groin, death of tissue in the hip joint and loss of surrounding bone.

Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Orthopaedics unit was already phasing out the ASR hip implant system when it finally acknowledged in March 2010 that the device was prone to early failure. By that time, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) had received hundreds of reports describing early failure of the DePuy ASR hip implant system. Even then, the company waited months to issue its recall.

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