As many as 3,000 patients who received jaw implants made of Proplast polytetra-fluoroethylene could receive settlements of between $1,500 and $100,000 if a federal judge in Texas determines a $30 million class-action lawsuit against a Houston hospital should go forward. U.S. District Judge Sim Lake in Houston is scheduled to rule on the issue Jan. 19. Lake has the option of ruling whether the summary settlement of Backstrom vs. The Methodist Hospital of Houston should either go forward or be dismissed.
According to Blair Hahn, a Charleston, S.C., lawyer representing the plaintiffs, settlement in the case was reached privately in March, but was not announced publicly until July, when the process of reaching all possible plaintiffs in the suit began.
Proplast, used in temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, surgery, became the subject of many lawsuits in the late 1980s when reports of substance failure in jaw implant devices began to surface. According to Hahn, Proplast was used in many surgeries performed at the Houston hospital in the 1960s and 1970s by surgeon Charles Homsey, who at the time was a Methodist Hospital employee.
Homsey formed Vitek Inc. to produce the Proplast TMJ devices. That company declared bankruptcy in 1990 after a Food and Drug Administration recall of the devices containing Proplast. The firm left no records of who actually received Proplast TMJ devices, Hahn said, making the process of contacting those who might share in the settlement's proceeds difficult.
In all, according to Hahn, some 10,000 people have received jaw implants of varying kinds in the United States.