On April 28, 2017, Todd W. Smyth, of Smyth Whitley, LLC in Charleston, SC, obtained a defense verdict on behalf of an orthopedic surgeon in Charleston, SC. The case was tried in the Court of Common Pleas before the Hon. Deadra L. Jefferson.
The case involved a 71-year-old patient who underwent hip replacement surgery. The Plaintiff alleged that she was allergic to the nickel containing prosthesis, told the co-defendant hospital this prior to surgery, but nonetheless received a nickel-containing implant. As a result, she alleged that she has had ongoing pain, swelling, redness, burning, and irritation since the surgery, all of which have limited her activities of daily living, and will require a complete revision surgery.
The Plaintiff was asked on her initial pre-operative visit to the surgeon whether she had any allergies to metals and denied having any. However, her original surgery had to be rescheduled and during the interim, Plaintiff alleged that she told a pre-admission nurse that she had experienced a reaction to “cheap metal jewelry” in the past. This information was then allegedly conveyed to the surgeon’s office staff, but never made it to the surgeon. The Plaintiff received the traditional cobalt-chrome hip implant that the vast majority of patients undergoing this procedure receive. In response to the Plaintiff’s claims, the defense argued that the surgeon acted appropriately, provided the correct implant for her, and that the implant was not the cause of the Plaintiff’s alleged injuries.
The defense presented evidence that the Plaintiff had never reported an allergy to nickel to any of her doctors at any time prior to this and that the implant she received contains less than 0.1% medical grade nickel, which is very different than the type of metals contained in cheap jewelry. The defense also called an expert orthopaedist who testified that the science behind the claims of implant allergies is not well established and that surgeons routinely use nickel-containing implants in patients who report similar past reactions to cheap jewelry. The expert further testified that there was no medical basis to perform any type of revision surgery on this patient and that her symptoms were not consistent with a metal allergy. The defense also presented evidence that the implant was still in the proper anatomic position and had shown no signs of failure that are typically associated with allergic reactions. Finally and perhaps most compelling, the defense also called the Plaintiff’s treating allergist who tested the Plaintiff for an allergy to nickel and found she was not allergic.
The case was tried over 5 days and the jury returned a unanimous verdict in less than 15 minutes for both the surgeon and the hospital.