The settlement programs spearheaded by Pope McGlamry’s leadership are in full swing. Nearly 2,000 Wright Medical Conserve claims have or are being settled through three (3) separate and staged settlements with Wright Medical, totaling approximately $340 million.
Wright Conserve MDL
The Wright Conserve Multi-District Litigation (MDL) was created in February 2012, consolidating all federal court cases in the Northern District of Georgia before United States District Judge William S. Duffey, Jr. Additionally, a Judicial Council Coordination Proceeding (JCCP) petition was approved in May 2012 before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jane Johnson. It consolidated California state-court cases involving Wright Medical hip replacement and revision matters, including Wright Medical’s Conserve, Lineage, and Dynasty hip implants. The Honorable Judge Ann Jones has since taken over this JCCP. The Hon. Diana M. Welsh (Retired) led the extensive settlement negotiations and has tirelessly worked with the parties to help facilitate the settlement. Pope McGlamry’s Michael McGlamry serves as Co-Lead Counsel in both consolidated litigations and led the settlement negotiations.
“These cases involved the failure of Wright Medical Metal-on-Metal (“MoM”) hip devices, primarily the Conserve device.”
Wright Conserve Product History
The mid-1990s was a pivotal time for orthopedic hip devices. The Charnley metal-on-poly (MoP) devices had been the gold standard for hips implanted since the 1950s. These devices utilized a poly liner between the metal head and the cup components to prevent metal articulating against metal. Several attempts to manufacture and market MoM hip devices had failed miserably in the 1950s and 1970s. Those failures resulted from the fact that metal components (cup and head) were articulating against each other, generating metal wear debris and metal ions along with causing cup loosening, tissue damage, inflammation, tumor formation, and other metal metal-related horrors resulting in revision rates of up to one half of all implants.
Yet, Wright Medical was willing to try MoM a third time, although they knew that surgeons were reluctant to utilize MoM due to these well-published issues. Because Wright Medical recognized that surgeons were their primary customers and the lifeblood of the company who were essential for the promotion of its products, but they knew that the surgeons’ greatest reluctance to use MoM was the metal-ion problem. Somehow they needed to make the issue go away.
Wright Markets to Baby Boomers
Wright Medical quickly recognized the perfect market for the MoM Conserve: Baby Boomers. Marketing recognized that with an aging, athletic population of men and women with a more active lifestyle, Baby Boomers were increasingly more likely to suffer hip injuries need hip replacements. Wright Medical marketed the Conserve devices to last 25-30 years, eliminate dislocation and, because they are metal components, charge the Baby Boomers more money. A perfect storm was born.
Wright Medical vigorously marketed the Conserve Total BFH and Conserve Total A-Class, total hip replacement version of the Conserve. Wright Medical undertook this marketing program without addressing and resolving the myriad of problems associated with MoM - primarily those related to metal ion release.
Conserve & MOM Devices Move Forward Without Testing
There were no biocompatibility tests or studies conducted or contracted for by Wright Medical to find out if this MoM articulation was safe or effective. There was absolutely nothing done at Wright Medical to study, test, or analyze metal ions.
Wright Medical charged ahead with the MOM hip devices, despite the clear red flags that came up, including:
- Knowing that the Conserve was going to generate metal debris (Cobalt and Chromium)
- Cobalt and Chromium debris generated toxic metal ions
- Toxic metal ions can cause cup loosening, tissue damage, necrosis, metallosis, tumors and worse
- They had no idea what levels of Cobalt and/or Chromium ions in the blood/urine were safe, acceptable, toxic, dangerous, injurious
- Strenuous physical activity increased the generation of metal ions
- Lack of clarity on whether Cobalt and Chromium could cause long term damage, even systemic damage
Knowing that it had to overcome one overriding and critical concern from its surgeons for MoM, Wright Medical implemented a plan to drive sales through the decriminalization of metal ions. So they trained their sales reps, the closest liaisons to their surgeons, that the effects of metal ions are known and have been demonstrated to be safe, when in fact, Wright Medical did no tests to determine at what level metal ions would be harmful to patients.
The result was disastrous. Patients began to present to their surgeons with pain, swelling, and in some cases, unexplained reaction in other parts of their bodies. Surgeons found high blood levels of cobalt and chromium, inflammation, pseudo tumors and adverse local tissue reactions, metallosis, and bone resorption.
Wright Medical Conserve Settlements
When combined, the 3 settlement programs cover almost all “eligible” claims in the MDL, JCCP, and on the tolling agreements. However, even with the third and final settlement program, there remained approximately 70 outstanding cases/claims that did not become part of any settlement program. Those cases must be individually litigated.
As a result of the law two settlements, the MDL is being closed and any cases that opted out of the settlements, and any cases that did not otherwise become part of a settlement, have been remanded to the respective federal district court of the Plaintiff’s residence.