Massachusetts Court Explains Pleading Standards for Defective Product Claims

Defective products harm people throughout Massachusetts on a daily basis. Thus, many people file product liability lawsuits throughout the State to attempt to hold the companies that sell dangerous products accountable. In many instances, such lawsuits involve claims that assert violations of both state and federal law. In a recent opinion, a Massachusetts court discussed the pleading standards imposed on a plaintiff asserting state law claims that are similar to violations of federal law in a matter in which the plaintiff was injured due to a defective medical device. If you were hurt due to a faulty product, you may be owed compensation, and it is in your best interest to meet with a Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss your options.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

It is reported that the plaintiff took a supplement that was developed and sold by the defendant. She subsequently suffered severe side effects, after which she filed a lawsuit against the defendant. In her complaint, she asserted claims of negligence, breach of warranty, failure to warn, and product liability. The defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims, arguing they were pre-empted by federal law. The trial court denied the motion, and the defendant appealed, which ultimately resulted in a reversal of the trial court ruling on different grounds than those asserted by the defendant.

Pleading Standards in Federal Cases Asserting State Law Claims

The appellate court held that in matters involving products regulated by the FDA, federal law does not preempt state law claims as long as they parallel federal requirements instead of supplementing them. The court further explained, therefore, that in such circumstances, a plaintiff does not need to allege the exact defect in the device or set forth the specific federal regulation that was allegedly violated in order for a claim to survive.

In other words, no heightened pleading standard is imposed, and a plaintiff is not required to plead with more specificity than what is required under Massachusetts law. Thus, in the subject case, as all of the plaintiff’s claims sufficiently paralleled the federal requirements, the plaintiff merely needed to plead facts sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to state law. The court nonetheless found that the plaintiff failed to assert facts that would allow her to recover from the defendant under Massachusetts law, however. Specifically, she failed to include facts in her complaint that, if proven to be true, would demonstrate that the defendant’s product caused her alleged harm. Thus, the court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

Speak to an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

Companies that produce products that cause unwarranted harm should be held accountable, and it is critical for anyone injured by a defective device to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. If you were hurt by a medical device, experienced personal injury attorney James K. Meehan can help you gather the evidence needed to pursue the full amount of compensation recoverable under the law. You can reach us through our form online or at 508-822-6600 to schedule a meeting.