As Baby Boomers continue to age and develop medical conditions, hip replacement surgeries performed every year continue to increase. When a person loses mobility and freedom in their lives as a result of joint dysfunction, hip implants can give them a new beginning and better health. Hip replacement devices, with metal-on-metal technology, can bring more pain, additional surgery, and the release of dangerous substances into the bloodstream.
Hip replacement companies recalled or removed products from the market when it became clear problems exceeded usefulness.
All hip replacement devices can be subject to complications, but metal-on-metal replacements are to blame for most of the problems reported by patients. These devices use a metal ball and metal socket, so that the ball rotates and moves in the socket when the patient runs or walks. As time goes on, the friction between the two metal surfaces can cause tiny particles of metal to shear off and enter the space around the joint. From there, ions from the particles enter the bloodstream and can travel throughout the body.
The ions are associated with problems in the nervous system, heart, and thyroid gland. Additional complications include organ damage, muscle damage, bone loss, hearing loss, vision loss, and tissue damage around the implant. Those who suffer illness or injury related to the failure of these devices can seek reparation for a variety of expenses, such as lost wages, medical costs, pain and suffering, and physical therapy bills.
In addition to the damage caused throughout the body by the release of metal particles, faulty metal hip replacement devices can become loose or painful, causing soreness in the hip, leg, or groin. They may cause swelling or infection in the hip joint and often affect the person’s gait. This can lead to muscle and joint strain in other parts of the body and can result in revision surgery on the hip or surgeries to correct new injuries.
All medical devices are subject to laws and regulations requiring that they be manufactured and tested properly. They must also be monitored regularly after implantation to reduce further complications or injury to the patient. When a manufacturer fails to adequately design, build, and market a metal hip replacement device, the consumer can suffer serious illness or injury. In cases like these, the victim may be eligible to pursue a product liability claim against specific parties to recoup damages.
There are four main ways a metal-on-metal hip replacement failure may qualify for a product liability lawsuit. Specifically, this type of claim can be filed when there is sufficient proof that the product is:
There have been numerous large lawsuits against manufacturers of various hip replacement products. Tens of thousands of patients have suffered illness, additional surgeries, and other maladies as a result of poorly made implants. Despite laws and regulations in effect for their manufacture, many companies often take shortcuts or use loopholes to be able to sell products more quickly to the rising population of people who need hip replacements.
In 2002, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) instituted the Medical Devices User Fee and Modernization Act. This opened the way for the FDA to authorize a “least burdensome route” for approving medical devices. Companies that made metal-on-metal hip replacements were able to skip long clinical studies and testing for their devices, and rush them to market.
In May 2016, however, the FDA issued new guidance severely restricting the way metal-on-metal replacements are approved. The new ruling required any manufacturer of metal hip implants to stop marketing the devices and submit new approval requests to the FDA. These premarket approvals are the most restrictive kind, and the FDA must determine that there is enough scientific evidence from testing to assure the device is safe for its intended use. Manufacturers must also seek FDA approval again any time they make changes to the device’s design, manufacturing process, or labeling.
Understanding these rulings and how to collect proof when a company fails to adhere to them can be a critical part of successfully pursuing a product liability or other type of claim. A skilled metal hip replacement attorney can remove the burden of gathering manufacturing records and expert testimony while a victim recovers from their injuries. Documentation showing a company’s lack of proper design and testing for a product can contribute significantly to a plaintiff’s case.
When a metal hip replacement goes wrong, it is rare to file a medical malpractice suit against the surgeon who implanted the device. Hip replacement problems are nearly always the fault of the manufacturer and are pursued as product liability cases. Oklahoma Statutes Section 76.101 and 76.103 govern product liability claims against companies, and trusted legal counsel can advise a victim on how these laws affect their case.
For example, it may be tempting for a plaintiff to join a class-action lawsuit that arises when a product has failed consistently and injured thousands of people. This choice puts victims at the mercy of a single court, and the distribution of any compensation awarded often leaves members of the suit with little to show for their suffering. Another option may be a mass tort kind of suit, which allows each plaintiff to file their own case while enjoying many of the same benefits of a class action suit.
Regardless of what avenue a patient follows, a qualified metal hip replacement attorney can improve their client’s case with their expert ability to:
When a victim decides to sue for compensation following damages or loss from a metal hip replacement, there are several types of information they need to initiate the claim. Some of this documentation can include:
In most instances, a metal hip replacement lawyer will only pursue a product liability case against the product manufacturer. It is not common to file medical malpractice suits against the surgeon because with nearly all defective metal hip replacement situations, it is a faulty device that causes further illness and injury. The orthopedic surgeon is often a witness that helps a plaintiff’s case, instead of a defendant.
In a successful product liability claim against a metal hip replacement manufacturer, the plaintiff must prove that the device was damaged, failed to perform as anticipated, was poorly made or designed, or was defectively marketed. Liability is further proven by presenting evidence that the manufacturer, distributor, or another party:
The plaintiff must also effectively demonstrate that the injury, illness, or death was related to the breach in the duty of care. Oklahoma civil code allows only a 2-year timeframe for filing a product liability claim. The suit must be filed within two years following the date of the injury or two years from the date the patient became aware of a problem due to their metal hip replacement.
Victims should bear in mind that companies often have large financial and legal resources to combat these kinds of lawsuits, including attempting to demonstrate that the victim is partially or fully at fault for the device failure. For example, they may claim the patient did not follow post-operative instructions for recovery or use of the joint after surgery. They might say a victim did not heed a recall notice or contact the manufacturer. It is critical to prepare for these rebuttals with the help of a competent metal hip replacement attorney.
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