Court Discusses Liability for Defective Medical Products Under Massachusetts Law

It is not uncommon for surgeons in Massachusetts to implant medical products such as artificial joints, valves, and mesh in their patients. Unfortunately, however, medical products, like other products, often have dangerous defects that cause serious injuries to the people they are intended to help. Thus, many product liability cases arise out of harm caused by defective medical devices. In Massachusetts, whether a plaintiff can recover damages from the manufacturer of a medical product depends, in part, on whether the physician employing the product was advised of the risks associated with its use, as discussed in a recent case. If you were harmed by a defective medical product, you should contact a knowledgeable Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss what claims you may be able to assert against the parties responsible for your harm.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff underwent surgical implantations of mesh devices manufactured by the defendant on two separate occasions, to treat cystocele, prolapse, and rectocele. The mesh eroded over time, and the plaintiff subsequently underwent a procedure to remove the mesh. It could only be partially removed, however. The plaintiff suffered from ongoing issues due to the remaining mesh and the erosion, including pain, scarring, infection, difficulty walking, and painful urination. The plaintiff and her husband subsequently filed a lawsuit against the defendant, asserting numerous claims, including negligence. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment as to all claims, which the court granted in part and denied in part.

Liability for Defective Medical Products Under Massachusetts Law

The court ultimately ruled that the plaintiff set forth sufficient grounds to proceed to trial on her negligence claim. Specifically, the court noted that under Massachusetts law, a manufacturer of a product could be held liable for harm suffered by a user of the product, if the harm was caused by the manufacturer’s failure to use reasonable care in warning of the dangers associated with using the product. In other words, a manufacturer has a duty to warn consumers of a known risk of harm.

In cases involving medical products, however, there is a middleman exception that allows a manufacturer to avoid liability for the failure to warn if the manufacturer sufficiently informs the prescribing physician of the risks associated with using the product. Thus, under this framework, a plaintiff must produce sufficient evidence that the defendant manufacturer failed to warn of a known risk, and if the plaintiff meets this burden, a rebuttable presumption arises that a physician would have observed a sufficient warning. The burden then shifts to the defendant to rebut the presumption, and if it is rebutted, the plaintiff must set forth evidence of causation. In the subject case, the court found that there was sufficient evidence to show that the defendant failed to advise of known risks of using the mesh, and that the plaintiff’s surgeon would have heeded the warnings. Thus, the court found that the plaintiff’s negligence claim against the defendant could proceed.

Confer with an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

If you were injured by an unsafe medical product, it is advisable to confer with an attorney regarding your injuries. The experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan are proficient at handling complex cases, including those arising out of harm caused by defective medical products, and we will work tirelessly to help you seek just results. You can reach us through the form online or at  508-822-6600 to schedule a conference.