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Articles Tagged with products liability

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The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky recently ruled in favor of a medical device manufacturer in a products liability case in which the plaintiff did not participate in written discovery. In Johnson v. Zimmer Holdings, Inc., a man had four medical devices implanted into his body when he underwent hip surgery in 2010. Unfortunately, the man’s hip dislocated at least six times between 2010 and 2012. About two years after his initial surgery, the man underwent a second procedure to replace three of the four medical products. Following the second surgery, the man filed a products liability lawsuit in a Kentucky federal court against the manufacturer of the medical devices that were initially implanted into his body. According to his complaint, the man experienced pain, suffering, emotional distress, and unnecessary surgery as a result of the medical device manufacturer’s defective products.

Pursuant to the Eastern District of Kentucky’s scheduling order, the parties entered into the discovery stage of the lawsuit. This is a pre-trial phase of a case in which each party is entitled to request certain relevant information from the opposing side. Discovery may include depositions, interrogatory and document requests, and more. Although the medical device manufacturer served the allegedly harmed man with written discovery requests, he failed to submit any discovery requests prior to the deadline that was imposed by the court. As a result, the medical device manufacturer filed a motion for summary judgment in the case.

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In Waltenburg v. St. Jude Medical, Inc., a man received an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (“ICD”) that was manufactured by St. Jude Medical, Inc. The electrical ICD device was inserted into the man’s body through a vein and then attached to his heart in an effort to correct irregular heart rhythms. Not long after the device was implanted into the man’s chest, he apparently began experiencing unexpected and unnecessary electrical shocks. Several years later, the man’s physicians reportedly told him that the ICD device implanted into his body was faulty, but it was too risky to remove it. The man filed a products liability lawsuit seeking damages for physical injury and emotional distress from the manufacturer of the ICD in the Western District of Kentucky.

In his complaint, the man claimed the medical device manufacturer was strictly liable for the allegedly defective ICD. He also claimed the company manufactured the product in a negligent fashion, negligently failed to warn him about the product defect, and alternately should be held accountable through the doctrine of negligence per se. A negligence per se cause of action normally arises when someone is injured after another party violates a law that was designed to protect the public or a specific class of individuals from the type of harm that the injured person sustained. In general, negligence per se is easier to prove than other types of negligence because the reasonableness of an at-fault actor’s conduct is not at issue.

The medical device manufacturer countered by alleging the man’s claims were preempted by the Medical Device Amendments (“MDA”) to the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and argued the lawsuit should be dismissed because the man failed to state a claim on which relief may be granted. Preemption occurs when a state law conflicts with a federal law in such a way that the purpose of the federal law is thwarted. According to the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, federal law controls in such cases.

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