JPML Agrees to Federal Multi-District Litigation

After considering arguments from both sides, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) agreed to consolidate dozens of federal lawsuits from patients claiming Stryker LFIT Anatomic CoCr V40 femoral heads caused them injuries into a single federal court.

The JPML consented to the request filed in January by plaintiffs who say that the Stryker femoral heads were defective and led to a host of complications, such as inflammation, bone fractures and revision surgery. Nearly three dozen lawsuits will be centralized into the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts before Judge Indira Talwani.

“After considering the argument of counsel, we find that the actions in this litigation involve common questions of fact, and that centralization in the District of Massachusetts will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation,” the panel wrote in its transfer order April 5.

All responding plaintiffs supported centralization while Howmedica Osteonics Corp. (HOC) opposed the transfer.

The panel decided that all the claims brought by the plaintiffs shared similar allegations of the performance of the LFIT V40 cobalt-chromium device and its tendency to cause corrosion when paired with femoral stems made from different alloys.

JPML Responds to Howmedica’s Opposition

Howmedica submitted a letter of opposition to the motion before the decision, expressing concerns over the number of auxiliary devices involved.

“HOC strenuously objects to Plaintiff’s request to transfer,” Howmedica said. “Plaintiff cannot meet the heavy burden to demonstrate that transfer of a small number of individual actions involving a myriad of different products, circumstances, and injuries into an MDL is appropriate.”

The panel disagreed with those claims.

“Without a doubt, there will be some individualized factual issues in each action, but these issues do not at this early stage of litigation negate the efficiencies to be gained by centralization,” the panel wrote. “That a number of different combinations of sizes and types of stems can be employed with the modular LFIT V40 device is not an insurmountable barrier to centralization.”

Although one group of plaintiffs supported centralization in the District of Minnesota and Howmedica sought centralization in New Jersey, the panel ultimately decided to create the multidistrict litigation in the District of Massachusetts.

“Five LFIT V40 cases in the District of Massachusetts are pending before Judge Indira Talwani, who has not yet had an opportunity to preside over an MDL docket,” the JPML wrote. “Boston offers an accessible transferee forum for this litigation, which involves a product that was distributed nationwide. Moreover, the District of Massachusetts is relatively close to HOC’s Mahwah, New Jersey headquarters, where relevant documents and witnesses may be found.”

In August 2016, Howmedica voluntarily recalled more than 40,000 defective hips due to a poor design and a failure at the stem-head taper junction. Howmedica also requested that the title of the multidistrict litigation be changed from In re: Stryker Orthopaedics LFIT V40 Femoral Head Products Liability Litigation to In re: HOC LFIT V40 Taper Lock Litigation.

The panel agreed to a partial name change but declined to add “taper lock” to the title because it would limit the scope of the litigation to only recalled devices.

The consolidation will take place over the next several weeks.

Other Plaintiffs Await New Jersey MCL Decision

While the federal cases will be transferred to the District of Massachusetts, plaintiffs with Stryker cases pending across the state of New Jersey continue to await a decision on whether statewide cases will be consolidated under a multi-county litigation.

The request was received by Acting Administrative Director of the Courts Glenn A. Grant in February and comments on the application were allowed until March 6.

Plaintiffs in New Jersey are asking for consolidation into Bergen County where 25 Stryker femoral head cases are already pending.