Eighth Circuit Denies Biomet’s Motion for New Trial in Defective Design Suit

An opinion was issued by the Eighth Circuit on Wednesday by Judges Smith, Wollman, and Grasz in a suit initially filed by Lori and Willis Nicholson against defendant Biomet, Inc., Biomet Orthopedics, LLC, Biomet Manufacturing LLC, and Biomet U.S. Reconstruction, LLC (collectively, Biomet).

The plaintiffs sued Biomet after plaintiff Lori Nicholson experienced complications from a hip replacement surgery that used the defendants’ M2a Magnum hip-replacement device, the opinion said. Nicholson specifically alleged that “Biomet knew the M2a Magnum’s metal-on-metal design was defective yet continued to design, manufacture, and market the device with a conscious and deliberate disregard for the rights and safety of consumers.” The initial complaint alleged multiple claims, including defective design. A jury concluded that the Biomet product was defectively designed, awarding the plaintiffs $1,050,000.00 in compensatory damages.

Following this ruling, Biomet moved for a new trial, claiming that the court had “erred in admitting evidence and refusing to give appropriate jury instructions.” Biomet also renewed its motion for judgment as a matter of law on the defective design claim and request for punitive damages. Both of these motions were denied by the district court and were then appealed to the Eighth Circuit.

The appellate court concluded that because “Biomet’s proffered evidence does not speak to causation, the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding this evidence.” Biomet’s assertion that the initial trial allowed experts to testify on issues they were not qualified to address was also struck down by the Eighth Circuit.

Lastly, the Eighth Circuit rejected Biomet’s arguments against punitive damages. They state that plaintiff Nicholson “bore the burden of proving, by a preponderance of clear, convincing, and satisfactory evidence, that Biomet acted with a willful and wanton disregard of safety in designing the M2a Magnum,” thus entitling them to punitive damages.

The plaintiffs were represented in the litigation by Roxanne Barton Conlin and Schlesinger Law Offices. The defendants were represented by Faegre Drinker and LaDue Curran & Kuehn.