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Zimmer NexGen Lawyers Set To Argue Over Consolidation of Knee Lawsuits

Published: July 20th, 2011

feature photoA panel of federal judges is scheduled to hear arguments next week on whether to consolidate all Zimmer NexGen knee replacement lawsuits into an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has scheduled oral arguments for July 28, after a requet was filed last month by plaintiff Fred Stone to centralize the Zimmer NexGen litigation for pretrial proceedings in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois before Judge Joan Lefkow.

At the time the motion was filed, there were 28 lawsuits over Zimmer NexGen knee replacements filed in different 13 federal district courts throughout the United States. However, some Zimmer NexGen lawyers representing plaintiffs have suggested that hundreds of complaints are likely to be filed in the coming months over the artificial knee systems.

All of the lawsuits involve allegations that plaintiffs experienced problems following knee replacement surgery as a result of design defects with Zimmer NexGen components. Plaintiffs claim to have suffered catastrophic implant failures, often resulting in the need for revision surgery to remove or replace the implants because they failed far in advance of their projected lifespan. Zimmer allegedly downplayed and understated the risk of Zimmer NexGen knee problems.

Zimmer has opposed consolidation of the lawsuits, arguing that it will not promote the efficient litigation of the cases, as there are at least eight different artificial knee products made by the company that are included in various lawsuits. The medical device manufacturer argues that each Zimmer NexGen knee model would have to go through its own discovery process, and that consolidated discovery would be made harder by the requirement to protect the company’s trade secrets.

In support of the consolidation, plaintiffs filed a response with the MDL panel suggesting that Zimmer is attempting to mislead the court in their opposition. Lawyers for the plaintiffs indicate that the medical device manufacturer’s argument conflicts directly with their marketing materials, surgical technique brochures and their 510(k) FDA approval applications, where Zimmer claimed that the knee implants were all functionally equivalent so that they could bypass any extensive review and approval processes with the FDA.

Although the complaints involve a number of different implants, most of the problems have been linked to the Zimmer NexGen high-flex knee plants, Zimmer NexGen MIS tibial components and Zimmer NexGen LPS gender solutions, some of which were recalled last year.

Consolidation of the lawsuits over Zimmer NexGen knee replacement systems before one judge as part of an MDL is designed to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid contradictory rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the court, witnesses and parties. While the pretrial management of the cases in an MDL is often managed similar to how a Zimmer NexGen class action lawsuit would be handled, each claim will still remain an individual lawsuit.

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