Plaintiffs Settle First Group of Wright Metal-On-Metal Hip Lawsuits for $240M

After a hard-fought, almost 5-year battle in federal court in Atlanta, Georgia and in California state court, we are pleased to announce a settlement program that will resolve a significant number of claims against Wright Medical.  Wright Medical has agreed to settle approximately 1,300 claims of certain Wright Medical metal-on-metal hip implant patient-claimants whose hips were revised at least 150 days and no more than eight years post-implant.  There are approximately 2,300 pending claims involving Wright Medical’s Conserve, Lineage, and Dynasty metal-on-metal hips.  Plaintiffs’ Leadership Counsel’s retained financial analysts have been evaluating Wright Medical’s ability to settle these cases for years. Based on that analysis, we believe that Wright Medical was not in a position to and therefore could not agree to settle the remaining claims involving revisions occurring after eight years or other cases that it deemed not qualified at this time.  During the negotiations with Wright Medical, it was made clear that claims for revised Wright metal-on-metal hips that are not included in this settlement will be part of subsequent settlement programs. 

The Wright Conserve Multi-District Litigation (MDL) was consolidated in February 2012 in federal court in the Northern District of Georgia before the Hon. William S. Duffey, Jr., United States District Judge. Additionally, a Judicial Council Coordination Proceeding (JCCP) petition was approved in May 2012 before the Hon. Jane Johnson, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge, consolidating California state-court cases involving Wright Medical hip replacement and revision matters, including Wright Medical’s Conserve, Lineage, and Dynasty hip implants.  The Hon. Diane M. Welsh (Ret.), led the extended settlement negotiations and tirelessly worked with the parties for several years to help facilitate the settlement.

Wright Medical’s hip and knee division (OrthoRecon) was sold in January 2014, and the successor corporation has a defense that it did not inherit the liability.  Our financial analysts’ review further indicated that Wright Medical’s ability to fund this settlement depended largely on insurance coverage and a bond issue used, in part, to raise money for this settlement.  Wright Medical has been engaged in litigation in Memphis with most of its insurance carriers and recently finalized an agreement with 3 of the carriers.  It remains in litigation or coverage disputes with its remaining carriers.  In light of our analysis of Wright Medical’s financial condition, this is a timely and meaningful settlement, offering $170,000 to claimants who had the monoblock Conserve Cup, the device with the most frequent failures, and $120,000 to those who had the metal-liner Dynasty and Lineage devices.  An additional, but capped, limited fund is also available for claimants who suffered discrete and defined claims of extraordinary injury.  More importantly, the settlement program calls for pre-qualification, without registration, coupled with a very simple administrative process for claimants not pursing extraordinary injury claims that will lead to expeditious payments expected to be largely complete by summer 2017.  Counsel for eligible claimants will be notified of their pre-qualification by February 3, 2017.

Plaintiffs’ Leadership Counsel consists of Raymond P. Boucher of Boucher LLP in Woodland Hills, California, ray@boucher.la / 818-340-5400; Michael L. McGlamry of Pope McGlamry, P.C. in Atlanta, Georgia, mmcglamry@pmkm.com / 404-523-7706; Helen Zukin of Kiesel Law in Beverly Hills, California; Peter Burg of Burg Simpson in Englewood, Colorado; Christopher Yuhl of Yuhl Carr, LLP in Marina del Rey, California; Sean Jez of Fleming Nolen & Jez, L.L.P. in Houston, Texas; and Ellen Relkin of Weitz & Luxenberg, P.C. in New York, New York.

 

 

 

Lead in Drinking Water: Class Action Filed by Fresno Families

Boucher, LLP has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of residents of Northeast Fresno, California, alleging that the City of Fresno, California and private contractors caused dangerous levels of lead and other toxic substances to leach into their water supply. The lawsuit asks for a jury trial. As an ABC News affiliate reports:

The plaintiffs allege that in 2004, the City of Fresno changed the residential water supply from groundwater to surface water, altering the water chemistry despite clear warnings from consultants who said the change would result in pipe corrosion, causing lead to contaminate the city’s drinking water. 

Thousands of Northeast Fresno area residents were further affected when, between 2008 and 2012, the city and their private contractors installed water meters on properties, improperly connecting brass meters to galvanized piping. The brass to galvanized piping connection violated industry standards, accelerating corrosion of pipes that increased the risk of lead contamination.

When complaints of discolored water first surfaced from the community -- beginning as early as 2004 -- the city and other governmental agencies ignored them. Instead of investigating and finding a solution, the City of Fresno assured residents that their water was safe. Yet, the city failed to test the water and ignored its responsibility to report the complaints to the State Water Resources Board as required. 

The EPA standard for lead in water is 15 parts per billion (ppb). According to city testing, forty percent of Fresno homes tested had water that exceeded the acceptable level. The EPA says* lead exposure, especially in children, can lead to damage of the nervous system, hyperactivity, lower IQ, learning disabilities, impaired hearing and anemia. In rare cases, exposure to lead in water can cause seizures, coma and potentially death. Pregnant women and their unborn children are also at risk for “slow or low growth” of the baby or premature birth.

Diminished home values are also a concern. In court documents, the residents allege lead contamination has substantially decreased the value of their homes, diminishing their residential investment and making it difficult to sell their property. They have sustained other economic damages as well, paying the city for contaminated water while purchasing bottled water for drinking, cooking and bathing.

On behalf of tens of thousands of affected Northeast Fresno, CA residents, the class action complaint asks the Court to require the city to solve the water treatment plant problems, and abide by its duties to residents to, among other things, provide clean and safe water.

The class action also names as defendants the City of Fresno, the City of Fresno’s Department of Public Utilities, and private contractors retained by the city. 

Read the Complaint here

Read news articles about the lawsuit herehere, and here

 

Raymond P. Boucher Interviewed Regarding Fresno Water Contamination Crisis

As concerned residents of Fresno, California seek answers from local officials regarding the safety of their water supply, the Fresno Bee reached out to Raymond P. Boucher of Boucher LLP for comment. Boucher, who is among the attorneys involved in leading the prosecution of cases against SoCalGas arising from the Aliso Canyon gas leak, spoke about his firm's collaboration with law firms Owen, Patterson & Owen and Wiliams Cuker Berezofsky to represent residents whose water has tested positive for high levels of lead.

The first step, he said, is to ensure that the rights of residents to file claims and take legal action are preserved. “There’s no point to do any saber-rattling at this point,” he said. Instead, the initial priority for attorneys will be to collect information so they can advise clients about their rights and how best to ensure that the water problems are fixed, prevent a repeat of the issues, and find out why it happened.

“We want to protect as much as we can everybody’s rights,” Boucher said. “That’s what the claim process is all about. You cannot bring a lawsuit under some circumstances unless there has been a claim. … So the first thing is to maintain the status quo and preserve their rights.

“Obviously there is a significant amount of investigation and analysis that has to take place,” Boucher added. “The people of northeast Fresno unfortunately feel very much in the dark (and are) leery and uncertain about the information that is coming out, how valid and accurate and complete it is.”

The Fresno Bee reported that, of the water samples taken by the City from 376 homes experiencing discolored water, initial testing indicated the presence of lead in 64 homes as of last week. "Lead is a toxic heavy metal, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mandates corrective action when concentrations are at or above 15 parts per billion."

Read more here.

Chowchilla Kidnapping Victims Seek Justice

Boucher LLP has filed a civil lawsuit against three kidnappers on behalf of victims of a mass kidnapping known as the "crime of the century."  As ABC News reports:

 

The Chowchilla school bus kidnapping victims are fighting back, even though it's been nearly 40 years since what prosecutors called the crime of the century. Twenty six children and their driver were abducted at gunpoint, and buried alive in a Livermore quarry.

The kidnappers served decades in prison. One is still there, and the other two have been released. And now, they all face a lawsuit, requesting a jury trial to make them pay money for what they did to those kids.

The Schoenfeld brothers, Rick and Jim, and their friend, Fred Woods, drew up a twisted plan to get rich. They kidnapped a bus load of children, headed home from summer school in Chowchilla, and brought them to a quarry in Livermore where they had buried a moving van. Then, they forced all 26 kids and their bus driver to climb down, sealing the hatch.

Ed Ray, the bus driver spoke at a news conference in July 1976 saying: "The ceiling started to cave in and everything else. We thought we were going to have it right then, but kept begging to let us out," he said.

They were down there for 18 hours. Frantic parents overwhelmed the police switchboard, so the kidnappers couldn't get through with their $5 million ransom demand before the bus driver and kids escaped. Now, 40 years later, the victims are still feeling the effect.

"They did a number of emotional damage to all of us, including our family, our parents," said kidnapping victim Jodi Medrano. "Our lives are never the same after that, ever."

The kidnappers each got life sentences. Fred Woods is still in prison, but the Schoenfeld brothers have been paroled.

"You have these victims sitting there going how is this possible?" said Ray Boucher, lawyer for 10 of the victims. "Twenty seven consecutive life sentences and these men are getting out free?"

Boucher has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the victims against Woods and the Schoenfelds for "false imprisonment, intentional or reckless infliction of emotional distress, assault, battery." He explained California law allows the victims to sue up to 10 years after the kidnappers are paroled.

"If they get out, then they ought to be held accountable and they ought to pay," Boucher told the I-Team. "And they ought to be able to stand in front of these children, these victims and answer for what they did to them."

Plaintiffs are represented by Raymond P. Boucher and Shehnaz M. Bhujwala of Boucher LLP. 

Huge Win for Consumers of Organic Produce in Quesada v. Herb Thyme Farms, Inc.

Today, the California Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in Quesada v. Herb Thyme Farms, Inc., unanimously vindicating the rights of consumers who paid a premium "organic" price for conventionally grown produce that was deliberately mislabeled as organic. Ray Boucher and Maria Weitz of Boucher LLP joined forces with Alan Mansfield of Whatley Kallas LLP and Public Justice’s Leslie Brueckner and Jennifer Bennett to achieve this major victory for consumers.

This is the first appellate court in the country to reject federal preemption under the Organic Food Production Act. In so ruling, the California Supreme Court squarely rejected the California Court of Appeal’s conclusion that the federal Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) preempted (entirely wiped out) consumer claims. The only other appellate court to reach this issue, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in a case called Aurora Dairy, found consumer fraud claims are impliedly preempted by the OFPA. Since that decision, no appellate court has allowed any consumer to sue for consumer fraud involving organic products—until today.

Leslie Brueckner, who argued the case before the California Supreme Court, writes more at the Public Justice Blog: http://bit.ly/1Nt0ybs

Jury Awards Plaintiff $11 Million in First Bellwether Trial in Federal Conserve Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation

The first federal bellwether trial against Wright Medical Technology, Inc. for product liability and misrepresentation claims relating to the corporation’s defective metal-on-metal Conserve hip implant device resulted in a multi-million dollar verdict for Plaintiff Robyn Christiansen on November 24, 2015, with the jury awarding her $1 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages.

Ms. Christiansen was implanted with Wright’s Conserve Plus metal-on-metal hip device in April, 2006. After only six years, the device failed and Ms. Christiansen, like many others who received the Conserve implant, was forced to undergo revision surgery to remove the defective device from her body. During the surgery, Ms. Christiansen’s surgeon noted fluid buildup, tissue necrosis, and signs of metallosis and inflammatory synovium, requiring the surgical removal of soft tissue damaged by the metal debris. Ms. Christiansen endured a painful recovery from her revision surgery and continues to suffer from her injuries. A former ski instructor for over 47 years, Ms. Christiansen is now limited in her ability to enjoy the things she has always loved to do, such as water-skiing and hiking.

Ms. Christiansen’s case was the first to go to trial in the In Re: Wright Medical Technology, Inc. Conserve Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2329, before the Honorable William S. Duffey, Jr., in the United Stated District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. The federal jury reached a verdict in favor of Ms. Christiansen in the two week trial after three days of deliberations that included the weighing of evidence and determination that Wright Medical Technology, Inc. acted knowingly and with reckless indifference toward the rights of hip implant patients who relied on the company’s misrepresentations regarding the safety of its device.

Veteran trial lawyers Raymond P. Boucher of Boucher, LLP in Woodland Hills, California, Helen Zukin of Kiesel Law, LLP in Beverly Hills, California, and Michael Lee McGlamry and N. Kirkland Pope of Pope McGlamry PC in Atlanta, Georgia, led Ms. Christiansen’s trial team. Mr. Boucher and Mr. McGlamry are co-lead counsel for all plaintiffs in the federal litigation.

When asked about the trial, Mr. Boucher stated: “It was an honor to represent Ms. Christiansen at trial. 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.”

Raymond P. Boucher Leads Trial Team in Conserve Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation

Trial begins today in the first federal bellwether case against Wright Medical Technology, Inc. for products liability claims relating to its defective metal-on-metal Conserve hip implant device.  Raymond P. Boucher of Boucher LLP and Mike McGlamry of Pope McGlamry PC, are co-lead counsel representing all plaintiffs in the multi-district litigation, and are leading Plaintiff Robyn Christiansen’s trial team in Atlanta, Georgia, along with Helen Zukin of Kiesel Law LLP.   

Ms. Christiansen was implanted with Wright’s Conserve Plus metal-on-metal hip device in April 2006.  After only six years, the implant failed and Ms. Christiansen, like many others who received the Conserve implant, was required to undergo revision surgery to remove the defective device from her body.  Ms. Christiansen endured a painful recovery from her revision surgery and is now limited in her ability to enjoy the things she has always loved to do, like water-skiing and hiking. 

The trial is going forward in In Re: Wright Medical Technology, Inc. Conserve Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2329, before the Honorable William S. Duffey, Jr., in the United Stated District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

Having completed a full day of jury selection, opening statements by the parties are scheduled to start tomorrow. The trial is expected to last for approximately two weeks.