Massachusetts Court Discusses Choice of Law Analysis in Cases in Federal Court

In many instances, a person injured by a harmful product will live in a different state than the company that manufactured the product. As such, if the injured party decides to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer for damages, it may be able to file the case in federal court. There are multiple factors that must be assessed when evaluating fault in a product liability case between parties from different jurisdictions, though, including which state’s laws ultimately apply. In a recent opinion, a federal court situated in Massachusetts discussed the process a court will undergo to determine which state’s laws govern the plaintiff’s claims in a case in which the plaintiff suffered harm due to a dangerous medical device. If you were injured by a defective product, it is advisable to speak to a knowledgeable Massachusetts personal injury attorney to determine what claims you may be able to pursue.

The Plaintiff’s Injuries

It is reported that the plaintiff suffered from a hernia that required surgical repair. During the surgery, mesh developed by the defendant was inserted into the plaintiff’s abdomen. The mesh ultimately deteriorated, causing her to suffer significant internal injuries. She then filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging multiple causes of action, including negligence, strict liability for defective manufacturing and defective design, negligent misrepresentation, and fraudulent concealment. As the plaintiff lived in Nebraska and the defendant’s principal place of business was in Massachusetts, the case was filed in a Massachusetts federal court. The defendant then filed a motion asking the court to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims.

Choice of Law Analysis in Federal Cases

Prior to assessing whether the plaintiff’s claims were sufficient to withstand the defendant’s motion to dismiss, the court explained it must conduct a choice of law analysis to determine what state’s laws applied to the plaintiff’s claims. In cases pursued in federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, the court must conduct an analysis applying the choice of law rules of the forum state to evaluate which laws apply.

Under Massachusetts law, courts conducting a choice of law analysis must take a functional approach that is guided by the Restatement Second of the Conflict of Law. Pursuant to that approach, tort claims should be dealt with according to the law of the state where the alleged harm occurred unless another state has a more substantial relationship to the underlying causes of action. Here, the court ultimately determined that Nebraska law should apply, as it was the state where the plaintiff resided and thus where the harm occurred. Thus, the court applied Nebraska law and dismissed some, but not all, of the plaintiff’s claims.

Meet with a Trusted Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney

Companies that develop and sell dangerous products should be held accountable for any harm suffered due to their carelessness. If you or a loved one were injured by a defective device, trusted personal injury attorney James K. Meehan can help you pursue claims against those liable for your harm, and he will fight tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact us through the form on our website or at 508-822-6600 to schedule a conference.