Wright Medical, the developer and manufacturer of the Conserve metal-on-metal hip implant, has asked the federal judge overseeing the multi-district litigation in Georgia to vacate the $11 million verdict that the jury returned during the first bellwether trial. A multi-district litigation (“MDL”) is a special proceeding used to consolidate numerous lawsuits that deal with the same complex product liability issues or disaster before one judge in a centralized forum. A bellwether trial is a trial that occurs in the MDL to test the parties’ claims and defenses. Usually, the case selected for the bellwether trial contains factual and legal issues that are common to the rest of the cases in the MDL.
In November 2015, the jury returned its verdict in the first ever federal case addressing claims that Wright Medical’s metal-on-metal hip implant resulted in injuries to a patient. The plaintiff alleged that although the hip implant was marketed as lasting from 15 to 20 years, she began to feel severe pain after only six years.
The two-week trial concluded with the jury assigning 100 percent liability to the manufacturer and awarding $1 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish a defendant for malicious, wanton, or reckless conduct and to deter other actors from engaging in the same behaviors.
Now, Wright Medical is challenging the award of damages on the basis that it is disproportionate to the injuries that the plaintiff suffered, seeking to reduce the $1 million in compensatory damages. The defendant is also claiming that the jury lacked a basis for awarding punitive damages, which are only available in conjunction with certain claims under Utah law. More specifically, the defendant claims that the jury’s conclusion that the defendant negligently misrepresented certain aspects of the hip replacement device that the plaintiff received cannot support a punitive damages award. Although the litigation was transferred to the MDL in Georgia, the law of the plaintiff’s home state, Utah, governed the bellwether proceeding.
To recover compensation in a product liability case, the plaintiff must prove at least one of three theories of recovery. First, the plaintiff can show that the device was unreasonably dangerous based on the way it was designed. Second, the plaintiff can show that although the device was designed safely, the unit that the plaintiff purchased or received was unreasonably dangerous due to a defect that occurred in the manufacturing process. Third, the plaintiff can show that the product was unreasonably dangerous because the defendant failed to provide proper instructions or warnings.
The Wright Conservis hip implant MDL contains hundreds of similar cases that await resolution. The injuries and damages are largely the same, with plaintiffs contending that they’ve experienced early device failure, metal poisoning, severe pain, loosening, and metallosis.
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries as the result of a dangerous medical device, the experienced team of product liability lawyers at Moll Law Group can help. We proudly serve clients throughout the United States, including in California, Texas, Florida, and Illinois. We offer a free consultation to help you learn about the scope of your rights. Call us at 312-462-1700 or contact us online to set up your appointment now.