2016 saw important progress in the DePuy litigation, which will continue in 2017.
The DePuy cases involve defective hip implants manufactured by DePuy International in England. Some of those implants were supplied to DePuy's New Zealand subsidiaries, and provided to New Zealand patients requiring a hip replacement. Subsequently questions emerged regarding the safety of the implants. Patients allegedly suffered metal poisoning and tissue damage as a result of implant defects. The implants were recalled, and the patients concerned underwent revision surgery to replace the original implants.
The patients concerned have claimed that DePuy failed to undertake a proper risk assessment and testing of the implants before they were distributed, and also that DePuy failed to adequately monitor the implants after they were placed into patients. In preliminary hearings in England, the English High Court found that New Zealand law governed the New Zealand patients' claim, and also found that the New Zealand patients were not able to bring a claim against DePuy for compensatory damages, due to the statutory prohibition on proceedings for damages in relation to personal injury covered by the Accident Compensation Act.
In October and December 2016, the New Zealand High Court released two judgments. The High Court agreed with the English High Court decision that the New Zealand patients are prohibited from bringing a claim against DePuy for compensatory damages (due to the prohibition on proceedings for damages in relation to personal injury covered by the Act). The Court considered that this position was not changed by the fact that DePuy's conduct in manufacturing the implants occurred in England and not New Zealand. This decision has been appealed. The findings are critical to New Zealand accident compensation law and policy, as they govern the extent to which patients can make a civil claim for compensatory damages in relation to medical products and devices which are manufactured overseas.