CHICAGO--(EON: Enhanced Online News)--Winnetka resident Mark Stephan filed suit today in the Circuit Court of Cook County, IL, against Howmedica Osteonics Corporation, doing business as Stryker Orthopaedics. The suit alleges that the hip implant he received in April 2011 is defective and needs to be replaced. Stryker issued a worldwide voluntary recall of its product a year ago last July, after receiving numerous reports of device failure due to heavy metal contamination.
“This is precisely the type of issue that the Rejuvenate System was supposed to solve”
At issue is a particular type of hip replacement known as “metal-on-metal,” referring to the ball and socket configuration replacing the top of the thigh bone and the hip socket. The Stryker “Rejuvenate System” was marketed to doctors starting in 2008 as a big improvement over pre-existing hip replacement systems; among other claims, the company said that its new, patented titanium metal alloy had been tested and proven to resist the wear and corrosion that had proven problematic with other metal-on-metal prosthetic hips.
However, the suit alleges that Stryker’s claims were false and misleading; that the device contained dangerous design defects; that it was inadequately tested; and that Stryker knew about heavy metal cast-off issues with the Rejuvenate System prior to its introduction but proceeded with its deceptive marketing campaign anyway.
Commented plaintiff’s lawyer Chris Hurley, “It was egregious for Stryker to market a product based on a set of specific representations it knew or should have known were untrue. These marketing statements fooled both doctors and patients alike. And these defective hip implants are causing all kinds of biological havoc across the country.”
That “biological havoc” includes, in many patients, a buildup of metal toxicity in the bloodstream, which potentially affects muscles, tissues and neurological functions. “This is precisely the type of issue that the Rejuvenate System was supposed to solve,” said Hurley. Symptoms of a defective hip implant include hip/groin pain, local swelling, numbness, or changes in a patient’s ability to walk. “Revision surgery” is required to replace the hip replacement.
Indeed, revision surgery is recommended by doctors for Mark Stephan, but Stephan’s unique history makes the surgery – and projected rehabilitation time – exponentially more difficult than usual to face.
Stephan, 55, is a New Trier High School graduate and married father of four who was working in finance, when his life changed dramatically on August 11, 2007. That weekend he was bicycling with friends when the front wheel of his bike disengaged, throwing him over the handlebars onto the ground, where his head hit the pavement with full force. His neck snapped. The accident left him a quadriplegic, and doctors were blunt: life in a wheelchair was the best he could expect.
He refused to accept that grim prognosis.
Thanks to the extraordinary therapy he received at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), Stephan shattered all expectations and left the hospital less than five months later, walking under his own power. But for Stephan, that was only the first leg of his comeback journey. Pushing beyond what anyone thought possible, he continued his progress by engaging in intensive therapy and a grueling daily training regimen – culminating in a November 2009 climb up 103 floors to the top of Willis Tower, the tallest building in North America, as the most astounding participant in the RIC’s annual fundraiser.
Stephan’s remarkable journey continued in the 2011 to ‘12 timeframe. He was not going to let his neck injury prevent him from pursuing his passion for biking. In April 2011 he underwent a hip replacement procedure, which eventually, after thousands more hours of rehab and training, enabled him to ride a specially-made recumbent tricycle with two wheels on the front and one in the back. What does one do with such a machine?
The man who had been told he’d never walk again resolved to ride his bike across the country. He did it last summer, riding 3,129 miles in 78 days, from the Pacific coast of San Diego, CA to St. Augustine, FL along the Atlantic coast, raising more than $800,000 for the RIC from well-wishers supporting his effort. When he triumphantly, but tiredly, returned home from Florida, there was a letter in his mailbox from Stryker Orthopaedics – informing him of its worldwide recall of the Rejuvenate System. “The irony with the name was almost too much to bear,” Stephan said.
Because of his quadriplegia, Stephan faces revision surgery that is vastly more complicated than an average patient would face, and a period of rehabilitation that promises to be even more challenging than the ones he has already endured. Michael Mertz, one of Stephan’s lawyers, commented, “Mark is looking at revision surgery that is daunting, to say the very least. His bravery and courage, his resilience and perseverance are nothing short of amazing and inspirational. We’re going to see to it that he receives justice from a manufacturer that unfortunately put profits ahead of patients.”
Added Mark Stephan, “This isn’t about me. This is about shining a spotlight on a problem that impacts thousands of people in the US. To people with metal-on-metal hip implants I’d say, go see a doctor. Get your blood tested for heavy metal toxicity. Inquire about any unusual symptoms you’re experiencing. Don’t put it off. If it happened to me it could happen to anyone.”
Hurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C. is a partnership of trial lawyers dedicated to fighting for the rights of ordinary people whose lives have been destroyed by the negligence of others. We take pride in providing outstanding personal service to our clients. For more information please visit: www.hurley-law.com.