Metal hip implants are medical devices that use working metal parts to either replace or resurface injured or damaged hip joints. Metal hip implants are commonly used for persons with hip injuries, debilitative hip disease, or other related conditions.
Specifically, metal hip implants involve metal on metal pieces and have been widely introduced into the consumer market for use as medical devices. These types of hip implants use a metal ball fitted into a metal cup in order to replicate the natural hip joint.
Although medical devices are intended to aid consumers, due to the design of some metal-on-metal hip implants, patients experienced injuries and other complications from their hip surgery. Specifically, injured patients initiated many lawsuits in relation to the ASR XL Acetabular System and the ASR Hip Resurfacing System, both made by the DePuy company. As a result, the DePuy company issued a recall for these two products in the summer of 2010.
Additionally, in 2000, numerous consumers of the Sulzer hip implant also initiated legal complaints against the company for increased hip pain. The Sulzer hip implant was an artificial hip used in medical hip replacement procedures involving replacing the natural hip with a manufactured mechanical replacement hip made up of a ball-and-socket joint.
However, due to a defect of an oily residue that was mistakenly left on the shell during the manufacturing process, the metal hip implant did not work as intended, and it fell apart in the patient’s body resulting in pain and injuries.
How Do Metal Hip Implants Cause Injury?
Two main injuries are associated with metal hip surgeries and implants:
- Mechanical issues or defects that involve the metal hip implants eroding or not properly functioning; and
- Chemical injuries due to the metal ions in the hip implants reaching the bloodstream.
As mentioned above, a manufacturing defect is the most common injury associated with metal hip implants. A manufacturing defect is a defect that results from how a product is formed together or assembled. In manufacturing defect cases, there is nothing actually defective about the product itself before and up to the point of assembly.
However, during the assembly process, the product becomes defective, either due to some mistake or incorrect assembly of the final product. For example, the oily residue for Sulzer hip implants mentioned above was a manufacturing defect.
Another common injury associated with metal hip implants is the product failing to operate as intended or a design defect. For example, if, over time, a simple walking motion can cause the ball and socket structure of the implant to erode, leaving metal particles in the area where the implant has become loose, then that may be considered a design defect of the hip implant.
These defects often result in further damage and pain to the hip area instead of providing the intended relief to the consumer. Further surgery is often required to remove the faulty metal-on-metal implant and repair the injuries from the defective hip implant.
Finally, in some cases, patients that have received hip implants have reported negative effects on their circulatory, nervous, and thyroid (glandular) systems due to the high presence of metal ions in their bloodstream. These chemical-based injuries have been linked to the eroding metal from certain metal hip replacements.
For all of the above injuries, an injured consumer may sue the manufacturer, wholesaler, dealer, or even the physician that performed the metal hip surgery for their injuries. Typically, the injured consumer will bring a lawsuit against one of the above responsible parties under the legal theory of product liability.
What Is Product Liability?
Product liability is the set of legal statutes (i.e., written laws) that hold a manufacturer or seller of a product accountable for placing a defective product into the stream of commerce. Generally speaking, under product liability laws, any party that is responsible for any part of the manufacture of a defective product can be held liable for any injuries resulting from the use of that defective product.
For example, in creating a piece of medical equipment, such as a metal hip implant, numerous different parties are often involved in the manufacture, distribution, and sale of the equipment. For example, one manufacturer may supply the raw materials while another creates the actual equipment, etc. After the final product is made, one party will distribute the piece of equipment to the end user, such as a medical facility, doctor, or patient.
If the resulting medical equipment that was created is defective, then any of the following parties involved may be held liable for any resulting injuries:
- The assembling manufacturer that assembled the equipment;
- The wholesaler for the equipment;
- The dealer that sold the equipment to the consumer or medical facility; or
- The manufacturer of the specific part of the equipment that was found to be defective.
Product liability law is a distinct category compared to ordinary personal injury suits. In contrast to personal injury lawsuits, product liability laws are designed to protect consumers and compensate consumers for their injuries while also serving as a deterrent to manufacturers by punishing those who make or sell unsafe goods.
In essence, the manufacturer and seller of medical equipment owe a duty to the end consumer to prevent dangerous products from entering the stream of commerce. This heightened duty standard often makes damage recovery easier for an injured consumer compared to other civil lawsuits.
What Are The Legal Elements Of a Product Liability Claim?
For a consumer that was harmed by a defective product to be successful in their civil lawsuit against the responsible party that harmed them, they must typically prove the following legal elements:
- That the product was sold to them in the stream of commerce;
- That the seller or manufacturer of the product was under an obligation to sell or manufacture the product in such a way as to meet the ordinary expectation of average consumers;
- That at the time of sale, the product contained either a design defect or a manufacturing defect;
- That the defect in the product is what caused the product to be unreasonably dangerous;
- That the defect was foreseeable (i.e., predictable), that the defect could have injured an average consumer; and
- That the injury caused the plaintiff to sustain quantifiable damages.
Once the plaintiff (i.e., the injured party) can prove all of the above elements, they will then be required to demonstrate to the court that they suffered quantifiable damages. Quantifiable damages essentially mean showing the court a dollar figure amount that would put the plaintiff back in the position they were in before suffering injuries due to the metal hip implant.
Examples of common damages that may be awarded to a successful plaintiff in a metal hip implant case include:
- Medical costs and expenses associated with the plaintiff’s injuries that occurred due to the metal hip implant;
- Out-of-pocket expenses of the plaintiff related to their injuries, such as the cost of a new hip implant, prescription costs, and therapy bills;
- Loss of income or loss of earning capacity that occurred as a result of their injury; and
- In some cases, punitive damages may be awarded by a court if the responsible party was grossly negligent.
Do I Need an Attorney for Help With Metal Hip Implant Injuries?
If you or someone you know was injured from using a metal hip Implant, you should immediately contact an experienced class action attorney.
An experienced attorney specializing in class action lawsuits will be able to determine whether or not you may participate in the class and recover from your injuries resulting from the defective metal hip implant.
If there is no class action lawsuit, an experienced attorney can help you determine the party responsible for your injuries and initiate a private civil lawsuit against them to recover damages associated with your injuries. Finally, an attorney can also represent you in court, as needed.