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Judge: medical implants not subject to strict products liability

Posted on December 3, 2012 in Products Liability

Recently, a California appellate court ruled that the legal doctrine of strict liability does not apply to medical devices that a doctor prescribed and implanted. The case involved an allegedly defective product, namely, a femur implant. The plaintiff in the case, a cancer patient, alleged that the femur implant that he had fractured because it was made with material that was too soft, forcing him to undergo surgery and endure an extremely difficult recuperation. Thus, the plaintiff argued that the maker of the implant breached a duty of care to him by selling a defective product. The judge ruled that the device was medically prescribed and thus, was exempt from the doctrine of strict liability for public policy reasons. The court, however, ruled that the plaintiff could recover damages for negligence and for the design defect.

Strict liability is a doctrine in personal injury law that allows plaintiffs to recover damages for injuries even if the defendant was not negligent. In the context of products liability, plaintiffs use this doctrine to recover damages for the making or selling of defective products, even without proof of the manufacturer’s or seller’s negligence. Strict products liability involves an absolute duty to make safe products, and it typically applies to the manufacture or sale of products with a high risk of potential injury to the consumer.

Injuries from defective products can occur almost anywhere. They can occur on the job due to negligence or to defective equipment, or they can occur in leisure time due to defective products being used for recreation, travel or, in this case, for medical reasons. Oftentimes, there is no way to warn a potential customer that a product is defective; unfortunately, most of the time, only the experience of enduring an injury or illness due to the defect serves as a warning to consumers.

Fortunately, anyone injured due to a defective product is entitled to adequate monetary compensation. The victim may recover monetary damages from the defendant for products liability and may also recover workers’ compensation if the injury was on the job. Those injured by a defective product have the ability to hold the responsible actors accountable.

Source:, “C.A. Declines to Extend Strict Liability to Medical Implants,” Kenneth Ofgang, Nov. 28, 2012