Hundreds of Minnesotans whose artificial hips leaked metal into their bloodstreams will get settlements of at least $300,000 following a $1.4 billion settlement announced Monday in a Minneapolis federal courtroom.
Thousands of people across the country received artificial hips sold by Stryker, of Kalamazoo, Mich., only to find their pain was just as bad or worse than before their surgeries. All told, more than 5,000 people in 39 states filed product-defect cases against Stryker over its Rejuvenate and ABG II modular-neck implants.
Many, if not most, of those cases will be resolved under a settlement announced in court by U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank. The damages in the cases are not capped, and the company’s estimate of $1.425 billion in total payouts is considered a conservative estimate.
“I think it’s a very fair settlement, frankly,” said Minneapolis plaintiffs’ attorney Charles Zimmerman of Zimmerman Reed, who served on the six-lawyer committee that negotiated the deal. Compared to settlements in past artificial-hip injury cases, the Stryker settlement is “fairer and quicker. These payments should be starting in June of next year, which is very quick.”
Stryker and its hip-implant subsidiary, Howmedica Osteonics, voluntarily pulled the two hip models off the market in 2012 after patients complained of pain and swelling from the devices.
Medical tests revealed many patients with the implant had gotten metallosis, a toxic dose of metal in the blood caused by fraying and erosion of the implant. Lawsuits soon began to pour in, including several hundred filed by Minnesota residents.
Several companies that make and sell artificial hips have paid large settlements in mass product-defect cases. Last November, Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Orthopaedics division agreed to pay as much as $3 billion to about 8,000 patients whose hip devices were defective.
The Stryker litigation involves two models of ceramic-on-metal, modular-neck femoral hip implants. Patients with Stryker implants can consult their doctors to find out if they have one of those two devices. Only patients whose artificial hips were replaced before Monday are eligible for the settlements, though a second round of settlements may be announced in the future.
“This settlement program provides patients compensation in a fair, timely and efficient manner,” Bill Huffnagle, president of Stryker Orthopaedics’ reconstructive division, said in a statement.
Plaintiffs not happy with their proposed settlement amount under the damages formula are free to opt out of the deal and litigate their cases in court. In some cases, insurers may have a claim to part of the settlement amount.
About 2,300 cases from patients across the country were consolidated in a single federal case in Minnesota in what’s known as a “multidistrict litigation,” a type of mass-lawsuit commonly filed against big health care companies. Just Monday, plaintiffs filed dozens more cases against Stryker and Howmedica.
Unlike a typical class-action lawsuit, MDL plaintiffs have complex individual circumstances that call for differing settlement levels. Zimmerman said the base settlement for each plaintiff is $300,000 per hip, but that amount can increase based on complications like infection, repeat revision surgeries or a large loss of bone from the implant.
Another 2,600 cases were filed in state court in New Jersey, and they’re subject to the same settlement announced in the federal case.
The parties have established an official public website for information on the global settlement at http://www.strykermodularhipsettlement.com.