Posted on 06/17/2021

Who Is Liable For Injuries Caused By a Defective Product?

Who Is Liable For Injuries Caused By a Defective Product?

Depending on your medical condition, your doctor might prescribe a medical product, such as a hernia mesh or an artificial joint, as a treatment or to help improve your quality of life. 

Certain patient injuries can result from doctors using defective medical products or other medical devices that fail to perform as intended. If that happens, you might be eligible to file a defective medical product liability claim.

Who is Held Responsible for Injuries?

Medical malpractice claims are made against the healthcare professional or facility that failed to deliver the legal standard of care. But in the case of defective medical product liability, the claim is often made against those who sold or manufactured the defective medical product, which could include the manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers.

Sales representatives could be held responsible if they sold the product for incorrect uses or didn’t clearly communicate risks. Parties in the pharmaceutical industry that tested the product for safety may also be responsible, such as laboratories.

There are some situations where healthcare professionals, such as doctors or hospitals, may be sued in a medical product liability case because they have a responsibility to inform patients of risks and proper instructions.

Unlike medical malpractice claims, you are not required to prove negligence with defective medical product liability cases. 

Different Types of Product Liability 

Defective medical product liability can be broken down into three main categories: design, manufacturing, and marketing defects.

Design defect 

Product design is critical to how well a medical device will perform when surgically implanted into a patient’s body.

A design flaw or other inaccuracy can result in problems throughout the lifetime of the product. Even if the medical device is carefully and accurately manufactured according to design parameters, it will still be potentially dangerous because of the original design defect

To prove design defect in a defective medical product liability case, you need to establish:

  • The medical product is dangerous when used in the proper manner and for its intended purpose
  • A safer alternative of the medical product exists
  • Creating a safer design isn’t cost-prohibitive for the company
  • The medical product’s function will be relatively the same (the product would still function similarly with the revised, safer design) 
  • Your injury was the result of the medical product design defect

Manufacturing defect

If the medical device or product has been safely designed, mistakes or errors in the manufacturing process can still result in a defective medical product. When a medical product fails to be manufactured according to the design specifics, and the result is a medical product that is more dangerous to patients than the original design set out, it’s considered a manufacturing defect.

Manufacturing defects can occur anytime in the production process and can result from human or production errors. Regardless of the reason behind the manufacturing defect, if it exists, you could be eligible to file a defective medical product liability claim.  For example, prescription drugs that have been contaminated by an outside source, whether through company negligence or human error, could fall under a manufacturing defect.

To prove manufacturing defect in a defective medical product liability case, you need to establish:

  • The medical product is unsafe when used as intended
  • If the medical product had been manufactured according to design specifications, it would have been safe for use and would not have resulted in injury
  • Your injuries were the result of using the medical product the way it was intended

Marketing defect

Companies must advise consumers about how to use their product safely. They must also disclose any potential risks or hazards that could occur through usual, appropriate medical product use. Failure to do so could result in defective medical product liability for the company. This is the reason why there are so many labels and safety warnings on almost everything we buy.

For example, cigarette packages that fail to warn consumers about the risks associated with usual cigarette use are a marketing defect. The consumer wouldn’t know about the risk of mouth disease, for example, unless there was a warning label.

To prove marketing defect in a defective medical product liability case, you need to establish:

  • The company was aware,or they should have been aware, of the potential risk(s) consumers would be exposed to through the use of the medical product
  • The risks to the consumer would be significant if they used the product they way it is intended to be used
  • Consumers are unlikely to discover the risks of this type of danger through normal usage
  • The company did not provide sufficient consumer warnings
  • Your injuries were the result of not being warned about the use of this product 

What To Expect in a Product Liability Case 

Defective medical product liability cases proceed in much the same way a medical malpractice case proceeds. 

It begins with filing a defective medical product liability lawsuit with the court outlining the legal basis for the claim. The defendant is notified and has a predetermined time frame to respond. 

During the discovery phase, both sides exchange information to learn facts that support each party. This can be through written questions called interrogatories or sworn witness testimony, called depositions.

Prior to the trial stage, both sides will discuss settlement or mediation. This can be informal, though attorneys representing each side, or formal, using an impartial third-party mediator. 

If a settlement isn’t reached, the defective medical product liability case will go to trial. The trial itself begins following jury selection, with opening statements from each side’s attorney. The plaintiff’s side will present their case, including expert witness testimony. The defendant presents their defense, including expert witness testimony. 

Once both sides have presented their full arguments, attorneys each offer a closing statement that summarizes the evidence presented. It’s at this point that the jury will deliberate and consider all the facts and arguments presented. 

When the jury reaches a decision, they announce it to the court. 

Need Help with a Potential Defective Medical Product Claim?

If you or a loved one have been injured due to a defective medical product, reach out to the medical malpractice experts at Grover Lewis Johnson. Our medical malpractice team is built on 25 years of malpractice experience and rooted in a genuine concern for our clients. Contact us for a free consultation today. We want to help you get the proper compensation you deserve — and because we work on a contingency basis, we don’t get paid until we win your case.