The Zimmer-Biomet bid seeks to dismiss $16 million in hip replacement lawsuits over their failed devices. Hundreds of people have filed hip replacement lawsuits citing premature failure. At one time, more than 2,500 cases were pending against Zimmer-Biomet.
Zimmer Holdings, Inc. divested some of its U.S. Holdings to merge with Biomet, Inc. in 2015. Zimmer and Biomet, were two of the largest companies for orthopedic and dental products before they merged and were only surpassed by Johnson & Johnson. Zimmer-Biomet is headquartered in Warsaw, Indiana, and is now officially known as Zimmer Biomet Holdings, Inc.
Zimmer-Biomet’s Bid To Dismiss
There are more than 400 cases against Zimmer-Biomet still pending in Indiana where the majority of cases involve the M2a metal-on-metal hip replacement device. These devices, consisting of ball, stem, and shell were approved without trial by the FDA and used on the market. This is standard practice if there is an equivalent design already on the market which has been proven successful.
In 2011, patients began to experience premature failure of these devices and required replacements soon after receiving them. The FDA began an investigation and found that the devices emitted toxic metal ions into the surrounding joints where the devices were being placed and that this was causing a leak of the toxic material into the bloodstream.
Generally, hip replacements carry risks of wear on the replacement material and metal on metal implants (MoM) have unique risks due to the metal material of the devices. In 2010, the products regulatory agency in the U.K. issued a medical device alert to the medical community citing the need for follow-ups and blood testing in their hip replacement patients. In 2012, Cana and Australia followed suit and the issue began to appear in the medical and scientific literature.
Judges Find Zimmer-Biomet Negligence
In 2014, Biomet began settling a number of hip replacement lawsuits for the M2a devices prior to the merging with Zimmer. Approximately $56 million was paid out, with each case averaging a settlement of $200,000. The average hip replacement surgery lasts around 15-years while the surgeries consisting of Zimmer-Biomet’s M2a devices, the surgeries were failing within a few years.
The majority of plaintiffs that the Zimmer-Biomet bid seeks to dismiss, cite several factors in their damages including pain and other health problems. The metal particles in the M2a devices were found to result in some of the following:
- Swelling and Damage to Soft Tissue
- Difficulty standing
- Difficulty walking
- Hip Pain
- Metallosis (build-up of metal debris in the soft tissues)
- Revision Surgery
In December of 2017, a Zimmer-Biomet lawsuit in Pennsylvania was won by Margo Polett, who claimed that while creating a promotional video for the company, where she engaged in such activities as bicycling and treadmill running to prove the versatility and durability of the hip replacement device Gender Solutions.
Mrs. Polett claimed to have sustained new damage to her knees which she had previously had double-knee implants. She was awarded approximately $15 million in damages even though she was found to be 30 percent responsible for her injuries.
In 2017, the courts determined that anyone who filed a Zimmer-Biomet lawsuit before April 15, 2017, in relation to their hip replacement devices, the case would be heard.
What’s Next For Zimmer-Biomet?
Zimmer-Biomet has been no stranger to lawsuits, including accusations of theft of trade secrets.
In 2008, German dental company Heraeus Kulzer, owned since 2013 by Matsui Chemicals, filed a lawsuit against Zimmer-Biomet alleging that Zimmer-Biomet stole trade secrets from them when developing dental bone cement. A court found in Heraeus Kulzer’s favor and awarded the company €30 million in damages.
In 2016, Heraeus Kulzer filed another lawsuit against Zimmer-Biomet as well as its supplier Esschem, claiming €121.9 million in damages for the pair collaborating to manufacture copolymers used in the making of cement which the design and development were stolen from Heraeus Kulzer.
Also in 2016, Zimmer-Biomet was accused by the Stryker Corporation of “poaching” for deliberate trade secret appropriation and used unfair competition practices to gain an advantage over the market, including the solicitation of Stryker’s employees and customers in Houston, Texas.
They were accused by Stryker of loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Although Zimmer-Biomet also asked the court to dismiss this case as well as the class action lawsuits for their hip replacement devices, they settled with Stryker Corporation.
What’s next for the beleaguered Zimmer-Biomet isn’t known though their reputation and financial health have been battered in the last few decades with new accusations continuing today.
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