About the Zimmer Hip Implant
A recent ruling in New Mexico could be great news to anyone with a defective Zimmer hip implant and also counts as a resounding win for consumer and patients’ rights advocates. As part of the ruling, Zimmer, Inc. has been ordered to pay over $2 million in damages to a New Mexico man after a judge found that the man’s defective Zimmer hip implant suffered from “unreasonably dangerous design” problems.
Following a two-week bench trial in December 2016, Judge Nan G. Nash recently issued his ruling stating that the plaintiff’s permanent bodily harm was directly caused by Zimmer’s defective design. The judge also stated that the company failed to sufficiently test their product, which would have uncovered the defects before they could have caused any harm.
The plaintiff, Michael Brian McDonald, originally began suffering from pain in his right hip in February 2010. The pain soon became so severe that it kept him from playing golf and tennis, so he decided to see an orthopedic specialist.
That June, McDonald underwent hip replacement surgery in which he received Zimmer’s dual modular hip implant. Known as the M/L Taper Hip Prosthesis with Kinectiv Technology, this hip implant features a cobalt-chromium head, and it was this head that soon began causing McDonald’s problems.
Although everything went smoothly in the first few months of the initial recovery, by May 2011, McDonald began to suffer from loss of flexibility and pain in his hip and groin. Doctors eventually decided corrective surgery was the only option, resulting in McDonald undergoing two separate operations in October and November of the same year.
A new prosthetic hip was implanted in each of the two surgeries, while surgeons also replaced the cobalt-chromium head with a ceramic head. However, by this time the harm had already been done. Due to the cobalt-chromium head, McDonald now suffers from a build-up of cobalt debris around the hip joint termed metallosis. This build-up has caused permanent damage to his hip joint and has also contaminated his blood, resulting in a lifetime course of antibiotics and causing him to have to give up tennis and gold permanently.
McDonald also has a high likelihood of developing another infection in his hip due to the faulty Zimmer implant. This would most likely lead to his having to undergo a third and much more costly surgery, which would result in all of the implant components having to be removed and McDonald being wheelchair bound for two to three months to fully eliminate the infection. Then, only once the infection has been eradicated, can he can finally get a new implant and begin the recovery and rehab process all over again.
The problem, according to the judge, was that Zimmer only tested the various components of the implant in isolation despite knowing that the use of two dissimilar metals together can cause them to corrode quicker. This problem would have been quickly discovered had the company bothered to test all of the components together.
In addition to knowing that the two dissimilar metals increase the potential of corrosion, Zimmer was also aware of the fact that the wear debris caused by the junction of the two dissimilar metals also could be toxic and potentially cause serious bodily harm.
As part of the ruling, the judge awarded McDonald with just over $2 million, $1 million of which was for the pain and suffering he experienced in the past and will experience in the future. Still, in some ways it does seem that Zimmer got off light considering that McDonald’s life will never be the same again and he will have to endure further suffering.
Learn more about Defective Medical Devices.