Many consumers must use medical devices to maintain or correct a physical condition. Medical devices include any device used by a doctor, nurse, or other health care provider to treat illness, disability, or injury. Medical devices can include implants, stents, and defibrillators.
When something goes wrong with a medical device, you can suffer substantial harm. For example, if a patient's defibrillator short-circuits, resulting in a failure to deliver the necessary shocks, a patient's heart may not maintain normal heart rhythm as expected, and a patient with life-threatening heart arrhythmia may suffer death. When a medical device fails, it may be the result of a product defect or medical malpractice, or in some cases both.
Product liability lawsuits and medical malpractice actions are complicated. State laws may vary dramatically, particularly with regard to procedural requirements when bringing a lawsuit against a doctor.
In some cases, multiple parties are responsible for the harm from a failed medical device, including the manufacturer, its consultants, its sales representatives, the doctor or hospital, and the retail supplier. Usually, these potential defendants are represented by attorneys who employ knowledgeable experts, and it is important to consult your own experienced attorney so that you are appropriately represented in your claims against the defendants.
Product Liability Claims Involving Medical Devices
There are three types of defective product claims that you may bring in connection with a medical device that fails. The device may have failed due to manufacturing defects, design defects, or failure to warn, also known as defective marketing. Each of these three types of defects requires a plaintiff to prove different things, but usually it will be necessary to retain one or more experts to analyze the circumstances of the case and testify on your behalf.
A defectively manufactured medical device is usually a one-off. It is a medical device that was created because of an error at the manufacturing facility, or in some cases a problem with shipping conditions or the way it is stored or used in the doctor's office. In a manufacturing defect case, most of the product line is sound, but one or two items have a problem.
Design defects are defects that apply to all of the medical devices made according to a particular blueprint or design. They were appropriately manufactured, but the design is unreasonably dangerous. In some cases, a medical device may be used and purchased for years before it is discovered that it is defectively designed. The device may break down over time. In some cases, the manufacturer knows that the device will eventually break down but fails to alert consumers to that fact. If you can prove that a manufacturer knew of a design defect in a product, you may be able to request and receive punitive damages.
Failure to warn cases involve instructions or recommendations that come with a medical device that are either inadequate or provide bad advice about how to use the medical device. In some cases, a sales representative of the manufacturer provides an improper pitch to a doctor regarding the way the device is to be used, and injuries arise as a result.
Regardless of which of these three types of defects are involved in your case, you will have to show that one of the three types of defects existed, the defect caused your injury, and you suffered actual injuries and damages. Many medical device product liability suits are class action lawsuits in which multiple people with minor injuries arising from the same medical device sue the manufacturer together.