W&L, Allied Firms Obtain Stryker Hip Implants Settlement; Could Top $1 Billion

Stryker Corp. has agreed to pay potentially more than $1 billion to settle claims from patients injured by the company’s Rejuvenate and ABGII modular hip implants, the nationally prominent personal-injury law firm of Weitz & Luxenberg today announced.

The settlement capped nearly four months of intensive negotiations between Stryker and Weitz & Luxenberg’s Ellen Relkin along with co-counsels C. Calvin Warriner of the firm Searcy Denney, West Palm Beach, Fla.; Thomas R. Anapol of Anapol Schwartz, Philadelphia; and Tara Sutton of Minneapolis-based Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi, Weitz & Luxenberg said. Preceding those global negotiations were many months of individual bellwether mediations.

Relkin said the settlement talks proceeded in secret under the watchful eye of retired Magistrate Judge Diane Welsh, formerly of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Stryker Settlement Described

Details of the settlement — reached on behalf of approximately 3,000 patients implanted with the Rejuvenate or ABGII implants and later forced to undergo revision surgery — were made public by Bergen County, N.J., Superior Court Judge Brian R. Martinotti.

Most qualifying patients can expect compensation of at least $300,000 per failed implant; however, for the elderly it is adjusted downward in five percent increments from the age of 70, 75 and 80 until the age of 85, where the reduction is 20 percent said Relkin.

“The settlement also provides significant additional compensation for patients who suffered complications during revision surgery and for other damages, including future surgeries made necessary as a result of having been implanted with one of the defective devices,” Relkin disclosed.

“There is no overall cap or fixed fund for Stryker’s liability under this settlement program,” she emphasized.

Stryker’s modular Rejuvenate and ABGII hip-implant systems are so-called metal-on-metal devices, Relkin explained.

“Metal-on-metal hips have the potential for fretting and corrosion near the modular neck-stem junction of the implant that could result in adverse tissue reactions, metallosis, necrosis, osteolysis, and the need for hip-implant revision surgeries to remove the neck and stem of the implant,” she said.

Michigan-based Stryker Corporation and its Mahwah, N.J., subsidiary, Howmedica Osteonics, in 2012 issued a voluntary recall of the Rejuvenate and ABGII hip stems because of the fretting and corrosion problems, Relkin said.

Weitz & Luxenberg Filed First Stryker Lawsuit

The first lawsuit against Stryker and Howmedica was filed that same year by Weitz & Luxenberg acting as local counsel for the West Palm Beach, Fla., firm of Searcy Denney, said Relkin, emphasizing that the lawsuit was filed in Bergen County, N.J., through New York-based Weitz & Luxenberg’s Cherry Hill, N.J., office.

Later, the case was granted Multi-County Consolidation status following Relkin’s petition for that designation. Martinotti — one of New Jersey’s three Multi-County Litigation judges — was then appointed to preside over the case, Relkin recounted.

Martinotti was no stranger to hip-implant injury cases — at that time he was managing hundreds of such claims against DePuy Orthopaedics and its ASR artificial hips, another Multi-District Litigation, one in which Relkin was co-lead counsel, she noted.

In the Stryker case, Martinotti appointed Relkin as liaison counsel and Chairperson of the Plaintiff Steering Committee. Martinotti subsequently appointed four other attorneys to the committee recommended by Relkin; along with Anapol and Sutton they were David Buchanan of Seeger Weiss in New York City and Newark, and Tobias Millrood of Pennsylvania, Relkin said.

Importantly, Martinotti proactively sought to encourage a settlement in the Stryker case, Relkin said.

“Judge Martinotti worked quickly to establish a unique, innovative bellwether mediation process that resulted in individual settlements of 20 out of 21 mediated cases,” she said. “This set the stage for the global settlement that we are able to announce today.”

At one point in the proceedings, Martinotti praised Relkin for “doing an admirable job in representing all the plaintiffs’ interests in chambers, building a consensus with, those of you in the courtroom with her liaison and leadership team here, presenting a very cogent, well thought-out discussion with [the Stryker defense team].”

He stated yesterday, “I want to especially thank the lawyers who have led this litigation on behalf of the plaintiffs, especially Ellen Relkin,” going on to thank the other members of the Plaintiffs’ negotiating team as well as the defense negotiating team for successfully participating in the mediation process.

Relkin said the settlement is a huge win for the patients.

“Many of our clients are elderly or have become disabled from work,” she said. “As a result, most clients will probably and quite understandably be glad that a settlement of their cases has been obtained.”

Relkin offered that the settlement required much time, planning, and skillful execution to be reached. “We at Weitz & Luxenberg are absolutely thrilled to have helped bring this about,” she said.

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