11th Circuit Upholds Verdict in Wright Hip Bellwether

Elizabeth DiNardo, Esq. | Associate Counsel

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On Monday March 20, 2017, a three-judge panel 11th Circuit judicial bench affirmed the $2.1 million jury verdict in the first Wright Hip Implant bellwether trial. The panel said that U.S. District Judge William Duffey acted within his judicial discretion when he directed jurors to further deliberate the facts in the case and proceeded to give the jury a clean verdict sheet. While Judge Duffey’s actions may seem unusual, the facts surrounding them have a complex backstory.

The plaintiff in the bellwether trial, Robyn Christiansen claimed that Defendant’s hip replacement implant was defectively designed and that Defendant failed to adequately test the device before introducing it to the public market. Ms. Christiansen further claimed that Defendant failed to warn both patients and doctors of the risks associated with the device and chose instead to aggressively market the product as an extremely durable implant, ideal for more active patients. Plaintiff alleges that she was in the middle of a yoga class when she heard a “crunch” and realized her hip implant had been dislodged. Christiansen was forced to undergo revision surgery where it was discovered that metal debris from the implant had spread to the surrounding soft tissue.

At the close of the trial, the Atlanta jury moved to deliberate and came back with a confusing and contradicting verdict. In the initial verdict question, the jury found that the Wright Hip Implant was not defectively designed, but then proceeded to find the defendant manufacturer liable for negligent misrepresentation and went on to award the plaintiff with compensatory and punitive damages. Judge Duffey, seeing that the jury did not fully understand the instructions on the verdict form, issued a “stop here” order and gave the jury a clean verdict form. 

The 11th Circuit found that Judge Duffey was within his discretion to issue the “stop here” order and cited to the U.S. Supreme Court from precedence. The Supreme Court holds in Dietz v. Bouldin “in the normal course, when a court recognizes an error in a verdict before it discharges the jury, it has the express power to give the jury a curative instructive and order them to continue deliberating.”

The case is: Christiansen v. Wright Medical Technology Inc., Case No.” 16-12162, in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

The MDL is: In re: Wright Medical Technology Inc. Conserve Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation Case No.: 1:12-md-02329 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia

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