When we discuss liability in medical injury cases, we often focus on the idea of 'negligence.' There is good reason for this, as most cases when it comes to, say, a bad batch of medicine, or a medical device that is designed improperly, turn on whether there was someone at fault for the injuries that occurred due to the use of the medicine or device. However, this is not always the case.
Last March, this blog reported that a Texas jury had found against huge medical manufacturer Johnson and Johnson and one of its corporate entities for marketing a defective hip replacement device, and awarded a large sum to the plaintiffs in damages. That case was one of several bellwether cases that had been consolidated under Texas Multi-District Litigation rules. Recently, in another of these cases, a jury in Dallas returned an even larger award against the company for the same device.
Modern medical technology can be a wonderful thing. The advances in physicians' ability to diagnose and treat the multitudinous ailments that may afflict a Texas patient have resulted in creating an environment in which many diseases and injuries that would have previously resulted in almost certain death can be ameliorated or even cured. This technological advance seems to have only accelerated in recent decades. However, there is a risk also associated with rapid technological improvement: the potential for products that are defective in one way or another to reach medical offices and hospitals, and cause injury to patients.
There are some basic questions that Texas residents may have when it comes to medical devices that may cause them to suffer an injury due to a defect. One these might be: what kind of defects does the law recognize in these instances?
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Previous posts here have discussed some real-life lawsuits that have resulted in verdicts awarding compensation to victims of defective medical equipment in Texas and around the country. For example, we discussed cases regarding the use of defective metal-on-metal hip joints, as well as "power morcellators" during hysterectomies. These are just a couple of instances cited by some physicians who are championing a bi-partisan measure in the U.S. House of Representatives that would add some language to the federal statute covering reporting of defective medical devices.
We've discussed several aspects of the potential for injury presented by defective medical devices in Texas. We've touched on a couple of devices that have made news as being potentially unsafe for medical procedures and some of the laws that can limit a plaintiff's ability to recover for serious injuries suffered by them, in the form of statutes of limitations and the like. However, it is important to remember that manufacturers of medical equipment have a responsibility to ensure that their products are safe for use.
We have written fairly extensively recently about the dangers that may lurk in certain pharmacological situations where manufacturers either produce a defective substance, or fail to adequately warn doctors and consumers about potential risks of taking such drugs. Unfortunately, medications are not the only risk that must be assessed by Texas residents when dealing with health care decisions. There are various devices utilized by medical professionals that sometimes do harm -- either due to defect or unintended consequences of their use.
A previous post here discussed the idea of statutes of limitation on lawsuits for personal injury or wrongful death in certain cases involving medical professionals. As we discussed then, not only might a lawsuit be barred if it is commenced longer than two years after the injury occurred or was discovered, but, in cases of the use of a defective medical device, there may be a "statute of repose" that also comes into play. But what does this mean in Texas?
Many Texas residents may have heard of the statute of limitations before. While many people think of it in a criminal context, as in the government having to bring a case against an alleged perpetrator for a crime within a certain time, most civil actions that can be taken are also governed by such statutes. We have discussed before in this space how defective medical equipment can lead to serious injury or death to unsuspecting patients, and the fact that it may be possible to hold manufacturers liable for such incidents. This week we will ask whether there is a time limit on filing such a lawsuit.