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No New Jersey Zimmer NexGen Mass Tort – Cases to Continue Individually

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On June 9, 2010, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation established the Zimmer Durom Cup hip implant MDL, consolidating all federal cases into one court in the District of New Jersey. In August 2011, the panel again voted to consolidate all federal Zimmer NexGen knee failure lawsuits into one court in the Northern District of Illinois.

Zimmer Inc. was hoping to create a similar centralization for New Jersey state lawsuits alleging injuries from the Zimmer NegGen knee implants, but the New Jersey Supreme Court recently rejected that motion.

Zimmer Files for N.J. Mass Tort

On December 15, 2011, Zimmer Inc. filed a motion to create a mass tort in Middlesex County for all lawsuits filed in New Jersey state courts alleging injury from the NexGen knee implant. Plaintiffs typically claim the implant is defective, in that it tends to become loose within only a couple years, requiring revision surgery.

When Zimmer filed the motion for centralization, they argued that a mass tort would streamline the pre-trial process and increase efficiency, as is often the case in multidistrict litigation. A group of about ten plaintiffs opposed the motion. They argued that the number of Zimmer NexGen knee lawsuits is small, and these have already been informally centralized in Atlantic County under Superior Court Judge Carol E. Higbee. According the plaintiffs, moving these cases to a different court at this point makes little sense.

Studies Confirm Premature Loosening of Zimmer NexGen Knees

The New Jersey Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiffs and denied Zimmer’s motion to create a mass tort. They added that any future lawsuits concerning the NexGen knee should be filed in the appropriate county of venue.

Plaintiffs who have suffered from Zimmer NexGen knee implant problems claim to have experienced complications such as joint pain, impaired mobility, difficulty getting up from a seated position, infection, and component loosening. These complications first came to light in 2006 when Dr. Richard Berger of the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, who was a Zimmer consultant at the time, expressed concerns about the high rate of implant failures he was seeing. He and a colleague reported on 108 patients, 36 of which had X-rays showing their NexGen CR-Flex cement-less devices were not properly fusing to the bone.

Another study published in The British Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery noted that though the Zimmer NexGen Legacy knee replacements allowed a high degree of flexion, they showed a marked rate of early loosening of the femoral component. A meta-analysis published in the same journal in 2010 reported that there was no clinically relevant improvement in flexion obtained when using “high-flex” devices like the Zimmer NexGen knee.

So Far No Zimmer NexGen Knee Recall

Though there is no formal mass tort in New Jersey, hundreds of federal lawsuits involved in the Zimmer NexGen MDL continue to move forward, with cases being managed by Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer. The “high-flex” component was intended to create more flexibility for younger patients, but has instead proven to provide no additional benefits over traditional knee implants, and to create higher risks of complications. The implants are still available for use today, though many critics have called for the Zimmer NexGen Flex knee implants to be withdrawn from the market.