Knee Implants: 7th Circuit Upholds Learned Intermediary Doctrine In Denying Adequate Warning Claim
In a blow to the plaintiff in a bellwether case involving knee implants designed and manufactured by Zimmer NexGen, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled March 8 that a lower court properly applied the so-called learned-intermediary doctrine in dismissing the plaintiff’s duty to warn claim. (For more on the Learned Intermediary Doctrine, see: “TheLawFirm.com Closer Look: The Learned Intermediary Doctrine.”) The lower-court trial—which resulted in the defendants being found not liable in 2016—was the second bellwether trial in multidistrict litigation (MDL) over the allegedly defective knee implants.
Having suffered from chronic pain in his left knee due to rheumatoid arthritis, in 2008, plaintiff Theodore Joas went under the knife for total knee replacement surgery. He had installed a Zimmer NexGen Flex, marketed as providing implant recipients with greater mobility than the previous model. However, in 2014, after experiencing a recurrence of his knee pain, it was discovered that the tibial component of his NexGen Flex had come apart, requiring additional surgery.
In his original complaint, Mr. Joas alleged that the tibial component had come loose as a result of his involvement in high-flexibility activities, and that Zimmer had failed to adequately warn of this risk. In dismissing Mr. Joas’ claim in October 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer declared that the plaintiff had failed to provide adequate evidence that his injury was a result of a design defect. The Court further found that Wisconsin product liability law—which governed the case—required a plaintiff to demonstrate that a safer alternative exists, another hurdle Mr. Roas failed to overcome.
In February, plaintiffs and defendants in the seven-year-long litigation reported to Judge Pallmeyer the existence of a settlement in principle to resolve the 300 or so cases remaining in the MDL, which at its peak involved approximately 1,800 cases. The settlement announcement came after Judge Pallmeyer months earlier had urged the sides to come together in resolving the matter once and for all.
Have you or a loved one suffered harm as a result of a defective medical device? The law places strict deadlines on your ability to bring a claim, so don’t delay. The team of expert attorneys at TheLawFirm.com is standing by now for a free consultation. Contact us today!