Defective or dangerous medical devices such as implants, defibrillators and contraceptive devices can result in injury or even death to a patient. In some cases, the manufacturers, distributors, and even physicians can be held liable for patient injuries and other damages that result from defective products.
Examples of Devices
The term “medical device” refers to devices used by physicians to treat an injury, disease, illness or disability. Examples of medical devices that have resulted in recent medical and legal issues include:
- Defibrillators – A small electronic device implanted in a patient’s heart that delivers electric shocks in order to maintain a regular heartbeat
- Implant – Surgical metal or a synthetic device placed within a patient’s body in order to reestablish function to a disabled body part or metal plates, rods and screws that connect bone
- Contraceptive devices – An agent or device intended to prevent conception
- Stents – Small tubes that are placed into an artery to prevent obstructions
Types of Claims
There are three types of defective product liability claims. Such claims are based on at least one of the following:
- Design defects
- Manufacturing defects
- Marketing defects (sometimes referred to as ‘failure to warn’)
Medical devices with a defective design are properly manufactured but have been designed in a way that has the potential to result in injury. At times, a medical device will have been on the market long before the devices cause harm. In certain cases, victims may claim that the manufacturer was aware of the possibility of harm but purposefully concealed this knowledge or delayed taking the product off of the market.
Products with manufacturing defects are those that are damaged during manufacturing or otherwise improperly produced. Such can be a result of an error at the manufacturing facility, a shipping problem or an error that occurs at the doctor’s office or hospital.
Defective marketing refers to misrepresenting, failing to warn or failing to provide instruction concerning the risks associated with the use of the medical device by a patient. Marketing defects can occur at any time during the product’s lifespan, from initial advertising, labeling and branding, to sales and distribution at physicians’ offices, and after.
Medical Product Liability vs. Medical Malpractice
Plaintiffs in medical product liability cases may raise the issue of whether the manufacturer was at fault, or the provider had failed to warn about the potential dangers of the product. If manufacturers provide warnings to the doctors, nurses and other medical personnel using the product, the responsibility then falls on the medical professional to inform the patient of any potential for injury.
Medical product liability actions and medical malpractice actions can have subtle differences, yet both require an experienced attorney to help determine a plaintiff’s best course of action. Further, the companies that manufacture, sell and distribute defective products may anticipate the potential for injury or the risks associated with the device, and prepare prospectively for subsequent legal action by employing legal teams and implementing strategies and protocols for dealing with lawsuits. As product liability actions are often complex, it is essential that plaintiffs retain experienced medical product liability attorneys have the knowledge and skills necessary to fight on their behalf.
For more information regarding medical product liability, or to discuss your unique case contact the medical product and pharmaceutical liability attorneys at Azrael, Franz, Schwab & Lipowitz today.