A Los Angeles jury took just 3.5 hours to deliver a $9.2M Zimmer Durom Cup hip implant award. The award is the first plaintiff’s victory in the hundreds of pending suits against the company for failure to warn and negligent design of a defective product. The trial lasted three weeks.
Plaintiff, Gary K., developed complications from the metal-on-metal implant shortly after the surgery. The breakdown of Gary’s $9.2M award is $6.4M for future non-economic damages, $2.6M for past non-economic damages and $153K in medical expenses. Non-economic damages are usually for pain and suffering, physical impairment, inconvenience, loss of consortium, disfigurement or other non-pecuniary injuries.
While Zimmer reps state the failure rate of the Zimmer Durom Cup implant in 2008 was around 5.7%, other experts argue that the figure is too low and place it closer to 20%-30%. That would be approximately 2,400-3,600 out of the near 12,000 implants done between 2006 and 2008.
Hip replacement surgery implants artificial substitutes for damaged or fractured pelvic bones. The replacements used to be made only of plastic or ceramic and have three basic parts:
- The stem – inserted into the femur
- A ball – attached to the top of the femur
- A cup – attached to the pelvis
As technologies are wont to do, new alternatives emerged. One such alternative was the metal-on-metal variety. Unfortunately, these brought a whole host of problems, such as corrosion and the release of metal ions into the bloodstream. The Zimmer-specific complications include these, as well as fretting, infection, metallosis and device failure. Patients experiencing these complications had to undergo further surgery to remove or replace the implant.
I’m no materials scientist (though I know several and worked in an industry that relied upon such expertise), but it seems to me that metal-on-metal anything in the human body would present incredible potential for just such problems as are actually occurring. There are ways to prevent these complications, but obviously Zimmer didn’t choose the correct options. I wish Gary well on his recovery, as I’ve also known hip replacement patients and it’s not an easy road.