Rosemary Garstang

There will be much disappointment today for the claimants involved in one of the largest “product liability” group actions as they have lost the first round of a legal battle for compensation at the High Court over allegedly “defective” hip implants.   Mrs Justice Andrews ruled on a preliminary issue and concluded that DePuy is not liable to 312 patients who claim they had been injured by the implants.

It is estimated that hundreds more metal-on-metal claims against a number of other manufacturers were stayed awaiting the outcome of the trial.  Such other cases involve some of the biggest names in medical devices including Smith & Nephew, Zimmer, Corin Cormet and Depuy Syntheses, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

The product involved here was the DePuy Pinnacle Ultamet which was marketed as a device that was able to achieve “exceptionally low wear rates” and was a factor which led surgeons to believe that the Pinnacle would last longer than conventional hip replacements.  However, the UK National Joint Registry 2017 identified that the Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip replacement has a failure rate of 10 years that is six times higher than the failure rate of the mostly common used standard conventional components.

Lawyers for the claimants alleged that the product released metal particles, damaging the surrounding tissues and causing pain, difficulty walking, swelling and numbness or loss of sensation in the leg.  However, Mrs Justice Andrews said that they had failed to prove the hip joint did not meet the level of safety the pubic generally were entitled to expect at the time when it entered the market in 2002 and that it carried with in an ‘abnormal risk’ of damage.

Although this is the first round of a legal battle for compensation at the High Court over allegedly “defective” hip implants it has been said to be of concern that the DePuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip replacement which no clinician now uses, from a product group the orthopaedic profession has rejected for the serious harm it can cause, is deemed safe by this judgement.

Lead solicitors Leigh Day are now in touch with their clients “to see what steps can be taken” so we await their further comment as to what this will now mean for claimants in the continuing group litigation.

Hip-hip, but no hooray for now…