Appeals Court Upholds Damages Award in First Wright Conserve Hip Implant Bellwether Trial

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has refused to undo the $2.1 million judgment awarded to the plaintiff in the first bellwether trial of a Wright Conserve hip replacement lawsuit. In its March 20thopinion, the appellate court rejected the defendants’ assertions that either a new trial or judgment notwithstanding the verdict was warranted by purported issues with jury instructions.

Plaintiff Robyn Christiansen, a former ski instructor from Utah, received a Wright Conserve Hip Implant System in 2006. Six years later, she “felt and heard a crunching sound and then felt immediate, severe pain in her right hip and groin” while doing yoga. Christiansen was ultimately diagnosed with a loose and displaced acetabular cup and forced to undergo revision surgery. During the procedure, her surgeon discovered “a metallosis reaction” in the joint around the implant. Metallosis is a serious consequence borne from the shedding of tiny bits of metal, with metal ions reaching the bloodstream and causing metal toxicity.

In November 2015, jurors in the United States District Court, Northern District of Georgia, awarded Christiansen $1,000,000 in compensatory damages, along with $10,000,000 in punitive damages. However, the verdict was reduced to $2,000,000 million the following April, after the trial court found the punitive award to be excessive.

Christiansen’s case was among hundreds of Wright Conserve hip lawsuits centralized in the multidistrict litigation in the Northern District of Georgia before Judge William S. Duffey (In re: Wright Medical Technology, Inc., Conserve Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation / Northern District of Georgia – MDL 2329). In November 2016, Wright Medical Group announced a $240 million settlement on behalf of its wholly-owned subsidiary, Wright Medical Technology, of around 1,300 claims involving its Conserve, Dynasty and Lineage hip implants. Under the terms of the settlement, Wright was to pay $170,000 to each claimant who was implanted with its Conserve Cup device, and $120,000 to each claimant who received either a Dynasty or Lineage replacement hip. Wright also established a fund to reimburse patients who suffered “extraordinary injury” resulting from the failure of their hip implants. The settlement applied to patients with lawsuits pending in the multidistrict litigation as well as those included in proceeding in California Superior Court in Los Angeles. Those eligible to participate in the settlement program included plaintiffs who required revision surgeries within 8 years of their implant procedure, and whose claims weren’t subject to their state’s statute of limitations.

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