All pending and future cases in New Jersey related to Stryker LFIT Anatomic Cobalt Chromium V40 femoral heads will be consolidated into multicounty litigation (MCL) in Bergen County, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided last week.
“This Notice is to advise that the Supreme Court, after considering the application and the comments received, has determined to designate all litigation including the Stryker LFIT CoCr V40 Femoral Heads as multicounty litigation,” the court announced. “The Court has assigned the MCL to Bergen County for centralized case management by Superior Court Judge Rachelle Harz.”
The creation of multicounty litigation surrounding the recalled Stryker femoral heads was requested by plaintiffs in cases pending across the state of New Jersey. In their request, the plaintiffs argued that creating an MCL would promote judicial efficiency and that “all cases will involve recurrent legal issues of design defect, failure to warn, breach of warranty and possibly manufacturing defect.”
Plaintiffs chose Bergen County because 25 cases were already pending there and it is the county where Stryker’s unit, Howmedica Osteonics Corp., is located.
Ellen Relkin of Weitz & Luxenberg PC, the firm representing some plaintiffs in New Jersey, said plaintiffs had some concerns that Bergen County may have a bias jury pool since the company is headquartered in the county but that the courthouse was far enough from the company and closer to New York, according to the New Jersey Law Journal.
Judge Harz was selected to oversee the MCL and has experience overseeing the MCL over Stryker Rejuvenate Hip Stem and ABG II Modular Hip Stem components.
Stryker LFIT V40 Accused of Causing Complications
Metal hip implants like Stryker LFIT V40 femoral heads were initially introduced as a long-term and safe solution for younger patients who may be undergoing hip replacement surgery. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two Stryker metal-on-metal hip systems in 2008 and 2009, but the safety of these types of implants was quickly called into question.
Patients who had Stryker LFIT V40 femoral heads implanted in their hips had reported pain and failure of the system. Patients have claimed that the cobalt and chromium femoral heads corroded while inside them, sending metal particles into the surrounding tissue and their bloodstream. Others have reported instances of revision surgery to fix separation.
In August 2016, Health Canada issued a recall of a specific batch of the device based on a high number of complaints the country’s department of health received. That same month, Stryker issued a voluntary recall for a select number of the femoral heads because the company “received several complaints describing incidence of harm secondary to taper lock failure for specific lots of numerous catalog numbers of LFIT Anatomic CoCr V40 Femoral Heads.”
Attorneys for Stryker tried to get the cases in the MCL limited to those named in the recall, but the New Jersey Supreme Court allowed lawsuits involving non-recalled femoral heads to be included as well.
“We believe the problem is not just due to the femoral head design, but also its intersection with the Stryker Accolade, Meridian and Citation titanium alloy femoral stems. Plaintiffs look forward to prompt production of documents in response to long standing discovery demands,” Relkin said to Law360.
Stryker Opposed Creation of MCL in LFIT V40 Cases
After plaintiffs had requested the MCL designation, an attorney for Stryker responded to the application to oppose the application.
In the March response, Kim M. Catullo, who is representing Stryker, said an MCL was unnecessary because many lawsuits were already assigned to Judge Harz and that creating such a designation would mesh together cases that involved a variety of issues that included a number of other components.
“Given the inevitable and fundamental dissimilarities in the cases that would be lumped together, an MCL designation that simply captures all cases involving an LFIT V40 femoral head would be impossible to manage effectively,” Catullo said, according to Law360.
Thanks to the creation of a federal multidistrict litigation by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in April, the court decided that an MCL would allow for more efficient coordination between the federal and state litigation.