Hip Implant Case Proceeds in California State Court

Like so many others, Catherine Shelton was injured when her DePuy Pinnacle Hip Implant system failed.  Rather than filing suit in the Multi-District Litigation (“MDL”) proceeding that has been established in the Northern District of Texas for DePuy Pinnacle hip implant cases, Ms. Shelton chose to pursue her claims in her home state of California.  Legal battles are often fought over what court a plaintiff may pursue claims in, and Ms. Shelton’s case was no exception. 

Ms. Shelton, a California resident, brought claims against DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., an Indiana based manufacturer; DePuy’s parent company, Johnson & Johnson, a New Jersey company; as well as Thomas Schmalzried, M.D., a California resident.  When one or more defendants are from the same state as the plaintiff, the plaintiff may choose to file an action in his or her home state’s court, rather than in the Federal court system.  Ms. Shelton claimed that because both she and Dr. Schmalzried were residents of California, her suit should be permitted to proceed in the Los Angeles Superior Court, State of California. 

DePuy sought to have Ms. Shelton’s case transferred to the MDL.  It argued that Dr. Schmalzried was an improper party to the action, and that Ms. Shelton only named Dr. Schmalzried as a defendant so that she could avoid having her case sent to the MDL in Texas.  Ms. Shelton responded by showing that Dr. Schmalzried was an appropriate party to the litigation because he received millions of dollars for his role in designing and marketing the Pinnacle Hip System.

On December 1, 2011, California District Court Judge Dean D. Pregerson issued an Order in favor of Ms. Shelton.  The Order remanded the case back to the Los Angeles Superior Court finding that Dr. Schmalzried was not fraudulently joined for the purpose of avoiding the MDL in the Northern District of Texas, and that Ms. Shelton’s allegations of negligence, strict products liability, breach of warranty and fraud should be heard in her home state of California. 

This jurisdictional victory on behalf of a plaintiff is similar to the one obtained in Kopitke v. DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., et al., 2011 W.L. 856865 (N.D. Ill. 2011).  In Kopitke, an Illinois court found that a distributor of defective DePuy Orthopaedic Hip implants was a proper part of a plaintiff’s action, and that the plaintiff’s case could be litigated in an Illinois state court.  Each of these instances represent a significant victory for someone that has suffered a debilitating hip injury because what it means to “have your day in court” often depends on which court you have your day in. 

Whether the case is appropriate for state court or the federal MDL, the trial lawyers at Pope, McGlamry are prepared to pursue claims on behalf of those who have been injured by defective hip implants.  We will analyze each individual case to determine whether the plaintiff’s interest will be best served by state or federal litigation and work to obtain compensation for the injured individual.  If you or a loved one has had a DePuy ASR hip implant, a DePuy Pinnacle hip implant or a Wright Conserve Cup hip implant, contact the trial lawyers at Pope, McGlamry to learn more about how you may be able to obtain compensation for injuries that you have sustained.