A New Mexico judge has ordered medical device manufacturer Zimmer to pay over $2 million to a hip implant patient who suffered metal poisoning.
By Laurence Banville
Leading orthopedic device manufacturer Zimmer has been ordered to pay $2 million in damages to a man who experienced metal poisoning after receiving one of the company's hip implants, the Daily Business Review reports. On March 31, 2017, New Mexico judge Nan Nash ruled in a bench proceeding that Zimmer should be held liable for producing and selling an unreasonably dangerous device.
Zimmer Loses Hip Implant Bench TrialBrian McDonald, a consulting economist at the University of New Mexico, received one of Zimmer's M/L Taper Hip Prostheses in 2010, but soon began to suffer from extreme pain. He underwent two revision surgeries, in which the implant was removed and replaced with new components. Each time, McDonald's symptoms returned. In fact, he is slated for a third revision procedure, which has yet to be performed.
The device in question, the M/L Taper Hip Prosthesis with Kinectiv Technology (MLKT), is comprised of multiple components, including a cobalt-chromium head, titanium neck and stem. Zimmer has sold over 148,000 of the implants since the device was introduced to the US market in 2007.
Prosthetic Caused Metal Poisoning, Patient ClaimsIn his lawsuit, McDonald argued that the implant's combination of different metals creates an unreasonable risk of metallic debris, which can ultimately lead to metallosis, a build-up of metal in the soft tissues. Moreover, the plaintiff accused Zimmer of failing to test the device adequately.
In her own investigation, Judge Nash found that, while Zimmer had tested the implant's components in isolation, the company had not performed corrosion tests on the complete device. Despite this apparent oversight, Judge Nash ultimately decided that Zimmer had "exercised ordinary care in the designing and testing of the MLKT." In fact, she went so far as to rule that the manufacturer had adequately warned healthcare practitioners about the risk of metal corrosion.
Strict Liability Leads To $2M JudgmentEven so, Judge Nash ruled that Zimmer could still be held liable under the doctrine of strict liability, which doesn't take the issue of negligence into account. Zimmer, the Judge wrote, should be held liable for releasing a product that creates an unreasonable risk of injury, whether or not their design and testing process could be considered reasonable. "If a device is throwing off or creating so much metal debris and corrosion that it causes metallosis," she said, "that is not an acceptable risk of harm."
In the end, Brian McDonald won an award of $2.02 million, including $1 million to compensate for his pain and suffering. $287,000 has been apportioned to cover McDonald's upcoming surgery.