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Defective Hip Implants and Product Liability

Oct 12, 2007
Defective hip implants are a pressing legal issue due to the fact that over 20 million people in the US currently suffer from osteoarthritis, a disease with often afflicts hip joints. The disease is characterized by worn out cartilage, which may require hip replacement surgery.

Firms that make defective hip implants are threatened with product liability lawsuits since these defective products threaten the health of patients. A patient with a defective hip implant would feed a sudden pain in the area. At times, a popping noise would precede the pain.

The solution would be another surgery. The problem is that every new operation increases the chance that the hip implant, defective or not, wouldn't last. Threatened with product liability lawsuits, hip implant manufacturers usually find it in their best interest to recall defective products.

However, even after a recall, a deluge of lawsuits may follow. This was the case in the first major hip implant recall of Sulzer Orthopedics. The FDA announced a major recall in 2001 due to fracturing problems, this time involving St. Gobain Desmarquest implants.

The French manufacturer had recalled an implant component the month before the FDA announcement. It noticed a higher fracture rate in several patients one to two years after surgery. Although a number US firms were then using the defective component, these firms estimated than less than 6% of implant surgeries used the defective component.

Defective Hip Implants - Prove Fault, Prove Liability

To successfully prosecute a defective hip implant case, it must be proven that the product was defective due to the way it was made. Any external reason (e.g., faulty implantation, subsequent trauma, etc.) should thus be ruled out.

Defective products are defined as those that are 'reasonably dangerous' for their intended purpose. Reasonable danger is established if the risks are greater than the product's benefits. It may also be proven if the products put patients or consumers in danger beyond what they expected.

Grounds for Defective Hip Implant Claims

A patient may use two grounds for a claim in a defective hip implant lawsuit.

1. Strict Liability. The manufacture may be accountable for injuries caused by the defective implant, even if they undertook all precautions to prevent patient injury. No negligence or guilt for wrongful action needs to be proven. But the case must prove that the implant indeed caused damage.

2. Negligence. This simply argues that the implant maker or distributor failed to
a. Manufacture or provide a safe product,
b. Sufficiently inform the public about potential dangers or risks, and
c. Act on a matter liability laws require.

Defective Hip Implants - Penalties and Damages

If found guilty, the implant manufacturer may have to compensate patients for any or all of the following:

1. Medical expenses
2. Out-of-pocket expenses
3. Past lost wages
4. Future lost wages
5. Loss of earning potential
6. Pain/suffering
7. Punitive damages (for severe/intentional offenses)

Patients who've been victimized by defective hip implants must file their claims within the statute of limitations prescribed by the law. The statute of limitations is the time limit within which a lawsuit can be filed after damage or injury occurred. This time limit varies across states and circumstances.

Although there are certain instances where the statute of limitations may be extended, it's generally the case that the victim must file a claim as soon as possible after an injury is discovered due to a defective hip implant.
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