U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade, a Texas federal judge, has selected 10 cases for the next bellwether trial in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) over Johnson & Johnson’s metal-on-metal hip implants. They were selected from thousands of cases waiting their turn in the giant litigation.
The judge conducted his own independent review of potential bellwether cases, all of which involve plaintiffs that claim the metal-on-metal hip design caused trillions of microscopic metal particles to shed with every step, which they say led to bone erosion, tissue damage, infection, inflammation and blood poisoning known as metallosis.
The cobalt-chromium alloy socket-and-ball-head hip implant system has been under scrutiny since patients who had received them noticed that their new hip was failing at an alarming rate – some as little as five years. Artificial hips made from other materials can last up to 20 years or more.
The third bellwether trial began on Oct. 3 against DePuy Orthopaedics, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. All six patients had to undergo surgery to revise the failed hip, claiming the device maker knew it was riskier than other available alternatives, but “pushed it aggressively,” even going as far as paying kickbacks to surgeons.
Cobalt poisoning is also a potential side effect of the metal hip implant. Australian native Lianne Slinger received a metal-on-metal hip similar to DePuy’s model, but made by a different manufacturer. She blames the implant for ongoing health problems.
“I’ve been so sick it’s not funny,” 51-year-old Slinger said. “Sensitivity to light, headaches, swollen legs, facial numbness, chronic vertigo. But until I started falling over two years ago doctors took no notice of my complaints. I did not know about the suspected leaching until July last year when I was tested for cobalt/chromium. It came back as high. I have lost two kilos this week because I can’t eat. I still have the implant. There’s what’s called ‘pseudo tumour’ in there now – I’m told that’s what you get when you have cobalt in your body.”