Stryker Corp. settles four hip-implant suits

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HACKENSACK, N.J. — Four patients who claimed to have received defective hip implants from Stryker Corp. have settled their claim with the medical-device manufacturer for an undisclosed amount of money, lawyers involved in the case said last week.

The four lawsuits are the first to be settled since Stryker, based in Mahwah, N.J., was first sued last year by patients who contend they received hip implants based on a promise that the artificial parts would last for decades, but that the implants failed in less than two years, causing pain and requiring costly surgeries to fix complications.

More than 20,000 patients across the country received such implants before the device, known as Rejuvenate, was voluntarily recalled in July 2012. The first of the lawsuits against Stryker was filed a month later.

More than 600 lawsuits have since been filed, and thousands more are expected in New Jersey. The state Supreme Court later consolidated all Stryker lawsuits in the state to be consolidated in Superior Court in Bergen County.

The case has already ballooned into one of the biggest mass tort cases in the country.

Ellen Relkin, an attorney whose firm represents 350 clients, said the settlement was reached after a series of mediation hearings over the past two weeks.

Negotiations involved six lawsuits that were picked by both parties and by Superior Court Judge Brian Martinotti in Hackensack, Ms. Relkin said.

Attorneys were able to reach an agreement to resolve four of those cases, while negotiations fell through in the two others, she said.

Ms. Relkin said the settled cases represent “a tip of the iceberg” among the hundreds of cases that are still pending and will continue to be litigated, but that reaching a settlement this early in a case of this size was a rare accomplishment.

DePuy Orthopaedics, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, faced similar lawsuits over an artificial hip implant that it sold until the device was recalled in 2010. Those lawsuits, many of which also were filed in Bergen County, began settling only recently, when lawyers announced last month that the company will pay $2.5 billion to compensate an estimated 8,000 patients who had received hip implants.

Ms. Relkin said she cannot discuss the settlement amount because of a confidentiality agreement.

Jeanine Guilfoyle, a spokeswoman for Stryker, declined to comment.

The plaintiffs in the Stryker case contend they suffered muscle, nerve and bone damage as the metallic components of the device rub against each other, causing metallic “dust” to be released into neighboring tissue and absorbed into the bloodstream.

Many of those patients have already undergone revision surgeries to remove the defective product.

Ms. Relkin said mediation talks will continue next month in three other Stryker lawsuits. Fifteen other lawsuits also are scheduled for mediation talks in March, she said.

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