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How Different Laws Can Affect A Defective Medical Device Lawsuit


Product liability lawsuits can involve a number of parties. In the case of a defective medical device, for example, you may have a claim against the original manufacturer of the device, the supplier who distributed it, and the doctor who used the device to treat you. The specific laws that apply to each of these parties can differ, however, and it is therefore crucial that victims who pursue a personal injury claim meet all of the legal requirements to proceed with their case.

Florida Judge, Following Michigan Law, Dismisses Hernia Mesh Lawsuit

A recent decision from a federal judge in Fort Myers, Florida, provides a useful illustration. This particular case, Knudsen v. Ethicon, Inc., involves one of thousands of lawsuits pending throughout the country with respect to defective hernia mesh products. As the name suggests, hernia mesh is a medical device used by doctors to treat patients with hernias. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the mesh provides “additional support to weakened or damaged tissue” and is usually made from “synthetic materials or animal tissue.”

Unfortunately, the use of hernia mesh has also led to a wide variety of complications in patients. In the Knudsen case, the plaintiff received hernia mesh during two separate surgeries. A decade later, he required a third surgery, during which the doctors “did not find evidence of the previously implanted mesh,” even though this particular type of mesh was marketed as “permanent.”

The plaintiff sued the hernia mesh’s manufacturers in Florida federal court. But the court was actually required to apply Michigan product liability law to the case. In an order issued on April 19 of this year, U.S. District Judge Sheri Polster Chappell dismissed the lawsuit.

The plaintiff originally presented four claims under Michigan law: Two for “failure to warn” the plaintiffs of the risks of using the hernia mesh in question, and the other two for “breach of implied warranty” under Michigan law. The plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the failure to warn claims, acknowledging the “learned intermediary” rule applied. This rule basically says that a medical device manufacturer only has a duty to warn the doctor, not their patients, about any risks. The doctor then has the duty to warn the patient.

As for the breach of implied warranty claims, Judge Chappell explained that since the defendants provide a “good,” Michigan law required the plaintiff to “provide Defendants with notice of the alleged breach” before suing. The plaintiff admitted he never gave such notice. And even if the plaintiff had complied with the notice requirement, his lawsuit also failed to “plead a safer alternative design.” When pursuing a claim for defective design of a product, Michigan law requires a plaintiff to show, typically through expert testimony, that there was a “feasible alternative” that would have prevented the harm to the plaintiff while still maintaining the “usefulness or desirability of the product.”

Speak with a Florida Personal Injury Attorney Today

Thousands of Florida residents are harmed by defective medical and other consumer products each year. Unfortunately, seeking and obtaining compensation for such injuries is not a quick or easy process. You need to work with an experienced  defective products lawyer. Contact Leifer & Ramirez today to schedule a free initial consultation.


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