Nearly half of the trial lawyers selected to oversee Exactech product defect lawsuits are leading multidistrict litigation for the first time, including Waters Kraus & Paul Partner Patrick Wigle. The appointments reflect a trend among judges to ensure lawyers are able to gain experience and leadership roles in multidistrict litigation (MDL) earlier in their careers.
Obtaining leadership experience in MDLs is critical for attorneys in order to develop the skills needed to better serve clients in these complicated and important disputes. To effectively serve on an MDL leadership team, the attorneys must already have strong backgrounds, abilities and knowledge, according to Waters Kraus & Paul Founding Partner Peter Kraus.
“Patrick has the aggressiveness and the intelligence and the creativity to coordinate a case like this,” says Kraus.
Why Are People Suing Exactech?
According to the lawsuits, Florida-based Exactech was aware that its knee, hip and ankle implants failed prematurely but did not inform surgeons or the public about the dangers until a massive recall was announced. The defective implants began to experience high failure rates beginning as early as 2004 but recalls weren’t issued until August 2021. Since then, Exactech has recalled about 200,000 of the knee, hip and ankle implants.
The joint implants have caused painful injuries, including bone loss and osteolysis, according to the lawsuits. These injuries may necessitate corrective revision surgeries, which can be even more complicated and painful than the original surgeries.
“Thousands of people have been seriously injured by these defective medical devices that they were told would improve their lives,” says Wigle. “Many patients are having to undergo extensive and painful revision surgeries to remove devices that have failed after only a few years.”
There are currently more than 500 lawsuits involving Exactech devices consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York before Judge Nicholas Garaufis and Magistrate Judge Marcia M. Henry. Creation of an MDL allows the cases to be consolidated for efficient pretrial discovery, reduced costs and overall case management. Once an MDL is created, a leadership committee is created to coordinate the legal work on behalf of all of the plaintiffs. These roles are key for attorneys developing experience in complex litigation and require a strong skill set and subject matter knowledge.
“When you’re in MDL leadership, you’re representing not just your clients, you’re doing the work for the clients of many other law firms,” says Kraus. “So it’s crucial that you have a lawyer who has the skill set to do the job right.”
Wigle is ideally suited for the challenge, says Kraus. “Patrick has a deep background in medical malpractice litigation and in other product liability cases. He understands what it takes to put the case together against a sophisticated, well-represented defendant who will fight you at every turn.”
A push for young lawyers to gain experience
Judges in multidistrict litigation have expressed concern that younger plaintiffs attorneys need more leadership roles to gain experience. In 2021, the James F. Humphreys Complex Litigation Center at George Washington Law School released its Judicial Appointments Inclusivity Standard recommending that judges in class-action and mass tort multidistrict litigation consider age, gender, ethnic and geographic diversity when appointing lawyers to leadership positions.
At a November Exactech hearing, Judge Garaufis encouraged the plaintiffs attorneys to assemble a diverse team while also indicating a preference for including younger or newer lawyers.
Other judges have echoed the importance of leadership diversity. In multidistrict litigation over the heartburn medication Zantac, a federal judge in southern Florida created a leadership development committee with the intent of providing mentorship and experience for younger lawyers.
“MDLs are procedurally dense, and often involve complex legal issues as well as sophisticated discovery protocols,” says Wigle. “By participating as MDL leadership counsel, attorneys are able to become more skillful at navigating this type of litigation framework.”
How We Help Medical Device Victims
Seek justice with the help of our experienced attorneys. Our Dallas, Texas, medical device law firm has battled corporate giants on behalf of individuals like you for 20 years, aggressively fighting to hold them responsible for dangerous products. If you or a loved one suffered catastrophic injury or death caused by unsafe medical devices, we can help.