There are thousands of hip replacement proceedings pending throughout the nation. This means that many people have an interest in how these legal cases will be resolved. While hip manufacturers have failed to make a meaningful settlement up until now, having a better understanding of the settlement process may provide you with some peace of mind.
Understanding the procedural framework
The first thing that people need to understand is the procedural framework that will likely govern these settlements. At the time of writing, there are more than 10,000 lawsuits pending. These lawsuits are against various hip manufacturers, some of the most important manufacturers include Zimmer (look here), Wright (learn more here), Stryker (view Stryker page here), and DePuy. These lawsuits are on behalf of plaintiffs who have suffered damage or injury because of an artificial hip.
Most in the legal professional will label these cases as ‘mass torts’. Traditionally speaking, this means that a single product has injured a large number of individuals. In this case, it is a recalled hip device, but it could also be faulty brakes on a car or an incident such as a plane crash caused by negligence or other mistakes. In these cases, every affected individual is going to file his or her own lawsuit against one or more defendants.
Because there is a large number of people involved in these cases, the testimony and evidence for these mass torts is going to be the same for the majority of people. As a result, the courts decide to ‘consolidate’ the cases before one or more judges. An example that is very relevant to many of these cases is the DePuy ASR hip litigation. During this mass tort litigation, 9,000 individual cases were consolidated in two courts (the United States District Court in Toledo, Ohio and The California Superior Court in San Francisco).
Difference between mass torts and a class-action lawsuit
Some people will mistake mass tort cases with ‘class action lawsuits. There is a significant difference between the two. With a class action, a single person (the “class representative”) is usually going to file one lawsuit on behalf of thousands of people (“the class”). With a mass tort, every person has his or her own individual lawsuit.
The reason it is important to distinguish between the two is that with mass tort, it is only possible to reach a legal settlement with each individual plaintiff. This is in stark contrast with a class action suit where the class representative typically settles the lawsuit and the people he or she represents will have to decide to opt-out of the settlement or accept it.
Payments in mass torts
Another major difference between the two is that the mass tort litigation settlement values will often depend on a number of factors. The funds for the mass tort (placed in a settlement fund by the defendants) are apportioned to each plaintiff by using a point system or a formula. For example, for this particular case considerations might include:
- Was it necessary to replace the hip?
- Did the plaintiff have one or two defective hips?
- After revision surgery was complete, were there any complications?
- Did the defective hip cause long-term disabilities?
- The age of the plaintiff
- The levels of chromium/cobalt found in the plaintiff’s blood
It is important to remember that the plaintiff’s medical records will be needed to verify how much each plaintiff is apportioned from a settlement fund. This is another reason you want to work with an experienced lawyer who understands what you need to do in order to guarantee that you are eligible for any portion of the settlement.