One of the pillars of the idea of a fair trial is that all those who have something relevant to say regarding the proceedings in front of a court should be heard. Plaintiffs and defendants have the right to call witnesses and experts to testify on their behalf and the accused has the right to face their accuser. It is a backbone of life in a civilization maintained by rules and order.
Cook County Circuit Judge Deborah Dooling did her part to maintain that order earlier this month when she ruled that a 2013 verdict issued in favor of DePuy Orthopaedics was to be thrown out and granted a new trial in the matter. Her decision was based on the fact that the testimony of one of the plaintiff’s expert witnesses had been wrongfully excluded and, as such, the verdict was based on inadequate information.
Judge Dooling wrote that “the court in its pretrial ruling defined the relevant scientific community as the metrology and tribology scientists; however, that ruling was incorrect because that community designation was too restrictive. Here, the relevant scientific community includes all the scientists, experts, practitioners and surgeons in both the scientific and medical field associated with the implant industry.”
In essence, she is saying is that the previous court made the pool of expert witnesses too small and excluded scientific disciplines that had a direct relationship to the kinds of information that would be needed to make an effective and fact-based decision. While metrology and tribology scientists were included in the testimony, Dooling ruled that all expert-level witnesses – from both the scientific and the medical field – that were connected to the implant industry should have been heard; but were, in fact, not.
The exclusion of this testimony may have led to a decision in favor of DePuy in Carol Strum’s 2013 hip implant trial in which she alleged that the design of her hip implant was defective. The lawsuit alleged that the design of the device allowed for significant metal-on-metal contact to take place and this contact led to metal shavings and debris making its way into Strum’s tissues and bloodstream.
Strum is far from the only one making this claim. Some 9,000 lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson and DePuy Orthopaedics over similar complaints. Injuries sustained by these plaintiffs have been significant and include debilitating pain and loss of motion, metallosis, the formation of pseudotumors, and adverse reactions in local tissues.
The history of metal-on-metal hip implant lawsuits is extensive and includes bellwether multidistrict litigation trials, verdicts for the injured in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and a $2.5 billion settlement agreement reached with DePuy some four years ago. With thousands of cases still pending, however, this issue is far from resolved.