ATLANTA (Legal Newsline) – The case of a failed hip replacement of a Utah woman who received an $11 million jury award in a bellwether trial late last year isn't over yet, as the defense has filed routine post-trial motions.
The multimillion-dollar verdict was reached in November. The judge in the case, filed in Atlanta federal court, is considering a motion filed in January asking for the overturning of the jury's verdict or a new trial.
The plaintiff's response accuses the defendant of "playing Monday morning quarterback".
"Companies should pay attention," said C. Calvin Warriner III, of Searcy Law in West Palm Beach, Fla.
"Investors should pay attention. Doctors should pay attention. Injured victims should get fair compensation without the need for expensive trials."
The lawsuit, Christiansen et al v. Wright Medical Technology Incorporated, et al., was filed Jan. 29, 2013. The plaintiff, Robyn Christiansen of Sandy, Utah, suffered a failure of her metal-on-metal hip in 2012, about six years after it had been implanted.
She was diagnosed with a loose and displaced acetabular cup in her hip replacement, which was explanted in October of 2012, the lawsuit said.
The case went to trial Nov. 10 before U.S. District Judge William S. Duffey, Jr. and ended with a jury award of $1 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages.
Since then, Wright Medical has sought a new trial, with attention paid to the “inconsistent jury verdict,” dismissal of a recalcitrant juror during deliberations and other reasons. In her own motion filed with the court last week, Christiansen said there should be no new trial in the case.
"Wright Medical, playing Monday morning quarterback, challenges the Court’s careful trial management and the jury’s verdict, seeking desperately to overturn or reduce the judgment," the motion said.
"Wright Medical futilely attacks the Court’s sound, discretionary actions – many taken with Wright Medical’s express consent – and challenges the sufficiency of the evidence. The Court’s decisions were proper, and the verdicts and damages are supported by more than sufficient evidence. There are no grounds to reverse the judgment, require a new trial or reduce the damages awards."
As the tussle continues, Warriner told Legal Newsline that large awards in such cases are not surprising.
"Metal-on-metal technology was adopted decades ago and failed miserably," Warriner said.
"The devices poisoned people. Companies knew this. At the time companies began R&D on second generation metal on metal devices, advancements in polyethylene liner materials technology resulted in almost zero risk to the patient. Despite the lack of need and clear danger, companies raced to get new metal on metal implants on the market despite the obvious risk to patients."
Warriner said his firm has seen similar cases involving DePuy ASR & Pinnacle, Zimmer and Biomet metal-on-metal products.
All of which should send a clear message to prospective plaintiffs in such cases, Warriner said.
"If you are lucky enough to get a trial date, the case is not only winnable but good damage awards are possible," he said.