Defective Medical Products
With a job in outside sales, Judy Wiersema had been used to the constant driving, with multiple climbs in and out of the car. She had hoped that, with her new hip replacement over and done with, she would be able to return to both her sales job, and to the job that she really cherished: taking care of her beloved grandson, Joey.
Sadly, it was not to be. At age 71, Judy’s left hip was replaced with a DePuy ASR device, an all-metal, two-piece mechanism designed to mimic the human hip’s ball and socket. From the day it was implanted, she could tell that something wasn’t right, but she remained resolute and committed to working through it. Despite occupational and physical therapy, first in a nursing facility and then in her own home, her increasing discomfort led to a frightening drop in her ability to live and work independently.
Judy tried to manage the pain; she learned to sit and lay in specific positions and, once there, to stay put and not move. Ironically, five-year-old Joey became Judy’s hands and legs. “He’d fetch me coffee, he’d open the door,” she said. “I don’t know what I would’ve done without my little helper.”
Eventually, even walking was too painful to contemplate. “I just didn’t want to move,” she said. Judy appealed to her surgeon, time and time again. “I hurt, I hurt, I hurt,” she told him. When it became evident that the problem was not going away, but was, in fact, getting worse, Judy’s doctor worried that she had received a defective hip replacement.
A costly and uncomfortable trip to the Mayo Clinic—“the hotel, the gas, the food, the pain”— confirmed the surgeon’s suspicions. Judy was suffering not only from the mechanical failure of the device; she had developed metallosis, a condition caused by the release and corrosion of chromium and cobalt micro-particles from the ASR hip. These metals had seeped into her tissues and circulatory system. The device had to come out. Judy found herself once again preparing for surgery and, worse yet, another stint at the dreaded nursing home.
The second surgery and recovery process were strewn with complications, beginning with a near-fatal drop in her blood pressure during the procedure.
“I could’ve died,” she said, her voice rising by an octave at the mere mention of it. “I had allergic reactions to the medications. I was in that nursing home for two months, with food that was unrecognizable and a 99-year-old roommate who moaned all night. When my friends would ask me what I wanted, I’d tell them: rye bread. Hershey bars. Cheese and crackers.”
As soon as she was well enough, Judy asked a local attorney to help her seek restitution from DePuy Orthopaedics, maker of the defective hip, and its parent company, Johnson & Johnson. He referred her to Meyers & Flowers, a Chicago law firm specializing in medical device litigation. From her first encounter with Attorney Peter Flowers, who filed suits on behalf of thousands of victims nationwide and was the lead attorney for hundreds of Illinois-based litigants, Judy felt comfortable and supported. She noted the firm’s extreme professionalism and, at the same time, easy-going approachability.
“The Meyers & Flowers team took care of me as if I was a member of their family,” she said. “They kept me up to date, and I never felt like I was in the dark. Mr. Flowers, Jason and Kelly put their heart and soul into this. The Meyers & Flowers team is the best there is.”
The favorable outcome to the lawsuit—a $2.5 billion settlement reached in September of 2014—meant far more to Judy Wiersema than the check that came in the mail, as her most fervent wish was to make sure that Johnson & Johnson realized the undue pain they had caused thousands of normal, everyday people.
“Just making dinner, doing the laundry, or taking a shower is a struggle, and always will be,” she said. “They put us through hell, and for what purpose? I hope they got the message.”
Slowly, Judy has learned to walk again, and she continues to care for her Joey. But, she’ll never return to line dancing, and she remains terrified of falling, and even more so of being sent back to the nursing home. She doesn’t leave the house without a wheelchair, a cane, or an arm to lean on.