Massachusetts Court Discusses Negligence and Breach of Warranty in Product Liability Cases

In many instances in which a person is injured by a harmful product, the person will be able to pursue multiple claims against the entities responsible for designing, manufacturing, and distributing the product. If a plaintiff alleging multiple claims in a product liability case is unable to prove one claim, however, it may preclude the plaintiff from recovering under other claims. This was discussed in a recent Massachusetts lawsuit in which the plaintiff sought to recover damages caused by defective transvaginal surgical mesh, but voluntarily waived her breach of the warranty of merchantability claim, resulting in the dismissal of her negligence claims. If you suffered harm because of an unsafe product, it is advisable to confer with a knowledgeable Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss what damages you may be owed.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff underwent surgery in 2008, during which the defendant physician implanted transvaginal surgical mesh. About five years after the surgery, the plaintiff began experiencing pelvic pain, suffered unintended weight loss, and lost the ability to be intimate with her partner. She subsequently filed a complaint in multi-district litigation, asserting claims of strict liability, breach of express warranty, strict liability failure to warn, breach of an implied warranty, and negligence. She subsequently waived numerous claims, including her claims for breach of warranty. The defendants then filed a motion for summary judgment, asking the court, in part, to dismiss the negligence claim. Upon review, the court granted the defendants’ motion as to the negligence claim.

Negligence and Breach of the Warranty of Merchantability

Under Massachusetts law, a plaintiff pursuing a negligence claim in a product liability case must prove that the defendant breached the warranty of merchantability to recover under the negligence claim. In other words, while a defendant may be found to breach the warranty of merchantability without being deemed negligent, the opposite is not true.

Specifically, a defendant in a product liability case cannot be found negligent if it did not breach the warranty of merchantability. The court explained that under Massachusetts law, a finding of negligence in a product liability case requires the jury to determine that a product was unreasonably dangerous due to a design defect, the lack of an adequate warning, or both. Further, it signifies that a prudent manufacturer would have observed the product’s flaws and taken the measures needed to correct the defects. Liability for the breach of the warranty of merchantability, however, does not focus on the conduct of the seller or user of a product. Rather, it is based solely on whether the product was defective and, therefore, unreasonably dangerous.

In the subject case, the court determined that not only had the plaintiff waived her right to recover under the breach of warranty claims, she also failed to produce any evidence supporting the allegations the warranties were breached. Thus, the court granted the defendants’ motion.

Meet with an Experienced Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney

If you sustained injuries due to a defective product, it is in your best interest to meet with an experienced attorney to discuss what claims you may be able to set forth in a civil lawsuit. The seasoned personal injury attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan possess the skills and experience needed to provide you with a strong chance of a favorable result, and we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can contact us via our form online or at 508-822-6600 to set up a conference.