There were about 93,000 A.S.R. implants sold by the Johnson & Johnson Company but it is believed that only about a third of them were sold in the United States. I suspect anyone with one of the hip implants from another country might seriously consider filing and action in the U.S. if they are able. I know virtually nothing on international law or the law applicable to nonresidents harmed by U.S. products outside the U.S.
There are approximately 7,000 lawsuits filed in the United States against Johnson & Johnson arising out of the A.S.R. hip implant. Those cases have been consolidated into a MDL in federal court in Ohio. For those of you unfamiliar with the term MDL I will explain it.
When numerous cases are filed across the country in federal courts the federal court system utilizes one federal court to consolidate the litigation. A MDL court is chosen by a panel of judges and all cases that are brought into federal court go into the MDL. In the MDL a group of lawyers will be appointed by the court as the Plaintiff's Steering Committee. There will usually be numerous other groups of plaintiff attorneys that help work on the case by reviewing massive amounts of documents, taking depositions, ect. The MDL has really become a very specialized process with many of the same lawyers across the country fighting to get in control of the Steering Committee.
Let me give you an example. When the litigation was going on against American Home Products, now Wyeth, for injuries sustained by the diet drugs, the MDL Court was in Pittsburg, PN. This meant that every person who filed a case who was unable to stay in their local state court got sent to Pittsburg. Coxwell & Associates represented hundreds of people harmed by the diet drugs. We were required to travel to Pittsburg once a month for the MDL meetings. The judge made rulings about the diet drug cases that applied "across the board." In other words when the federal judge made a discovery ruling on an issue it generally applied to every case. And if your case was in the MDL there was a monetary assessment applied to your case to pay all the lawyers working on the case which was in addition to your personal lawyer's professional fee.
The MDL has become the preferred way that big, mass torts across the country are resolved. There are currently MDL courts for Transvaginal Mesh, Avandia, and many other products that are alleged to have caused substantial harm to consumers. At Coxwell & Associates we have found it absolutely essential to work within the MDL system. We currently have DePuy Hip cases and Transvaginal Mess Cases filed in both state courts and MDL courts.
It is going to be interesting to see how the first A.S.R. trials end. In addition to the A.S.R. hip implant by Johnson & Johnson there are several other manufactures that have come under fire for metal on metal hip implants. These cases will slowly work their way through the various court systems. I predict that Johnson & Johnson will sit down and try to make some type of global settlement if the first several trials don't go well for the company. Let's watch and see.
Merrida Coxwell is the managing partner of Coxwell & Associates, PLLC. The firm focuses its attention on serious accident and injury cases, mass torts, and criminal defense. Frank Coxwell, a member of the PLLC handles consumer bankruptcy and lending/consumer issues.