A federal jury in Atlanta has awarded $11 million in damages to a retired ski instructor who is one of hundreds of plaintiffs to file suit over allegedly defective hip implant devices made by Wright Medical Technology.
The verdict, handed down Wednesday in a bellwether trial, awarded Robyn Christiansen $1 million in compensatory damages and $10 million
in punitive damages. The jury found Wright Medical's Conserve Plus metal-on-metal hip implant to be defective and found Wright Medical liable for negligent misrepresentations about the device.
"We're very pleased with the verdict," said Atlanta lawyer Michael McGlamry, a member of the plaintiff's legal team. "We're also especially pleased for Ms. Christiansen. She saw this not just as her case but the first of all of the rest of the cases."
Julie Tracy, Wright Medical's senior vice president and chief communications officer, said, "We disagree with the verdict, are considering all of our post-trial options and expect that we will appeal the decision if it is permitted to stand."
This was the first trial in a multi-district litigation case before U.S. District Judge Bill Duffey in Atlanta, where there are more than 300 cases similar to Christiansen's, McGlamry said. There are also hundreds of others with similar claims against Wright Medical before a state court judge in Los Angeles.
Christiansen, 73, of Salt Lake City, served as a ski instructor for almost 50 years and taught lessons to children at a resort in Alta, Utah.
She was implanted with Wright Medical’s hip device in April 2006, but the device failed after six years, her legal team said in a statement. Christiansen was then forced to undergo surgery to remove the device from her body. During that procedure, her surgeon found fluid buildup, tissue necrosis and metallosis, requiring the removal of soft tissue damaged by metal debris, the statement said.
Christiansen endured a painful recovery and continues to suffer from her injuries. She is now limited in her ability to enjoy the things she has always loved to do, such as water-skiing and hiking, the statement said.
Christiansen's case was one of 10 selected to go through a mediation and trial program. When mediation failed, her case was picked to be the first
one to go to trial, McGlamry said.
The federal jury reached its verdict after a two-week trial and three days of deliberations.
“It was an honor to represent Ms. Christiansen at trial," said Raymond Boucher, a Woodland Hills, Calif., attorney who is also a member of the plaintiff's legal team. "She is an outstanding spokesperson for the thousands of plaintiffs and individuals in this proceeding and in litigation pending in California and elsewhere with claims against Wright for its misconduct.”
In 2013, Wright Medical, of Arlington, Tenn., sold its hip and knee implant business to MicroPort Medical for $290 million, the company said. In October, Wright Medical merged with the medical device company Tornier, which has global headquarters in Amsterdam.