03/12/2014 06:54 EDT | Updated 05/12/2014 05:59 EDT

Hip replacement lawsuit inches towards courtroom

A Nova Scotia man has been certified as the lead plaintiff in a national class-action lawsuit accusing a medical equipment company of making faulty hip replacements.

According to court documents, Ken Taylor got a new left hip in June of 2007 after his own hip had deteriorated due to osteoarthritis.

Synthetic hips such as his are supposed to last about 25 years, but Taylor needed revision surgery two years later because a part of his new hip fractured.

Taylor's hip was manufactured by Wright Medical Group which is based in Memphis, Tenn., and has a Canadian subsidiary, Wright Medical Technology Incorporated.

Taylor's lawyer appeared before a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge in August to get the lawsuit certified as a class-action.

In a decision released this week, that certification was approved.

"The class is a national class," said Taylor's lawyer Ray Wagner. "So anybody across the country who has had a failed hip by Wright is part of the class as well. So we'll be giving notification across the country for anybody that wishes to be part of the action."

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of being "negligent in the design, development, testing, manufacture, distribution, marketing and sale" of the hip replacements.

The Halifax-based lawyer said there could be a lot more people affected by this product. As Wagner was preparing Taylor's lawsuit, his firm heard from 29 other Nova Scotians who also received Wright replacement hips. Wagner said of those, 15 reported early failures.

"We understand that the product may have been used quite frequently in Ottawa and in Edmonton," he said.  "And there may be other hospitals that have used the product as well."

Thousands of dollars at stake

Wright has yet to respond to the certification decision. The company can appeal, but Wagner said the lawsuit has passed the first test.

The judge noted that there hasn't been a product recall or a government warning.

"We have shown, at least some evidence at the early stage on certification, that these premature fractures are highly unusual," Wagner said.

"Therefore, when we have such a frequent occurrence here in Nova Scotia of a large number of people who have had premature fractures, then we say that's some evidence to indicate that there's something wrong."

Wagner said now they'll search out and analyze documents pertaining to the Wright hip product from the company.

He said if the lawsuit is successful, the claim for damages would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for each member of the class.

"Some people would have lost income, they would have had cost of care," he said  "The pain and suffering of having a revision surgery prematurely is a big issue.  And furthermore, when you have a revision, the lifespan of that product is much less than it is the first time around."

The next step is for the two sides to meet with a judge for a focus hearing. That must happen before the end of May.

Wagner said he'd like to take the case to trial in 2015.