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 What Is Product Liability?

Product liability is the set of legal statutes (i.e. written laws) that hold a manufacturer or seller of a product accountable for placing a defective product into the stream of commerce. It is important to note that every state has different laws regarding product liability. Generally speaking under product liability laws, any party that is responsible for any part of the manufacture of a defective product can be held liable for any injuries that result from the use of that defective product.

For example, in the process of creating a piece of medical equipment there are often numerous different parties that are involved in the manufacture, distribution, and sale of the equipment. For instance, one manufacturer may supply the materials, while another manufacturer creates the actual piece of equipment, etc. After the final product is made, one party will be in charge of distributing the piece of equipment to the end user, such as a medical facility, doctor, or patient.

If the resulting medical equipment that was created is defective, then any of the following parties involved may be held liable for any resulting injuries:

  • The assembling manufacturer that assembled the equipment together;
  • The wholesaler for the equipment;
  • The dealer that sold the equipment to the consumer or medical facility; and/or
  • The manufacturer of the specific part of the equipment that was found to be defective.

Product liability law is a distinct category of law when compared to ordinary personal injury suits. In contrast to personal injury lawsuits, product liability laws are designed to protect consumers, as well as compensate consumers for their injuries while also serving as a deterrent to manufacturers by punishing those who make or sell unsafe goods.

In essence, the manufacturer and seller of medical equi[ment owes a duty to the end consumer to prevent dangerous products from entering the stream of commerce. This heightened standard of duty often makes damage recovery easier for an injured consumer when compared to other civil lawsuits.

What Are The Different Types Of Product Liability Claims?

There are no federal laws governing product liability cases. As such, product liability lawsuits are filed in state courts in accordance with that state’s specific product liability laws. However, in order to help encourage as much uniformity within the law as possible, the United States Department of Commerce (“USDC”) published the Model Uniform Products Liability Act in 1979 that many states incorporated into their local product liability laws.

Product liability claims are filed based on the legal theories of negligence, breach of warranty, or strict liability. Strict liability is the most commonly used legal theory cited in defective product cases. Descriptions of the three main legal theories for product liability cases are outlined below:

  • Negligence: In a product liability claim based on the legal theory of negligence the plaintiff (i.e. the party that was injured) alleges that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care to prevent unreasonable risk of harm and injury when using their product. Then, if that duty of care is violated and results in an injury to a user of their product, the defendant may be held liable for the resulting damages;
  • Strict Liability: Strict liability claims are similar to negligence, but they remove the intent element. This means that the plaintiff does not need to prove the negligent or reckless behavior of the defendant. Instead, if the product was defective and caused an injury, then the liability automatically exists; and
  • Breach of Warranty: In legal terms, a warranty is a type of guarantee that is made by the seller regarding a good or product. A warranty may either be an express warranty or an implied warranty.
    • An express warranty is created by an overt statement or action made by the seller. For example, if a seller makes an oral or written promise about a product, the product must then conform to that specific use;
    • An implied warranty is a warranty that is created by law. Implied warranties apply to products regardless of whether or not the seller made any sort of statement or promise. The two most common implied warranties are the implied warranty of merchantability, and the implied warranty of fitness for particular use.

What Are The Legal Elements Of a Product Liability Claim?

In order for a consumer that was harmed by a defective product to be successful in their civil lawsuit against the defendant that harmed them, they must typically prove the following legal elements:

  • That the product was sold to them in the stream of commerce;
  • That the seller or manufacturer of the product was under an obligation to sell or manufacture the product in such a way to meet the ordinary expectation of average consumers;
  • That at the time of sale the product contained either a design defect or a manufacturing defect;
  • That the defect in the product is what actually caused the product to be unreasonably dangerous;
  • That the defect was foreseeable (i.e. predictable), and that an average consumer could have been injured by the defect; and
  • That the injury caused the plaintiff to sustain quantifiable damages.

What Is the Sulzer Hip Implant?

The Sulzer Hip Implant was an artificial hip that was used in medical hip replacement procedures. The hip surgery involved replacing the natural hip with a manufactured mechanical replacement hip that was made up of a ball-and-socket joint. The metal ball was mounted on a stem that was tailored to fit into the femur of the patient.

The socket was created after the acetabulum and installed in the surface of the pelvis. In addition to the sulzer hip implant, the sulzer knee replacement was also similarly affected by a manufacturing defeat.

What Is a Manufacturing Defect?

A manufacturing defect is a defect that results from how a product is put together or assembled. In manufacturing defects, prior and up to the point of assembly, there is nothing actually defective about the product itself. However, during the assembly process, the product becomes defective either due to some mistake or incorrect assembly of the final product. This mistake during the assembly process renders the product as unsafe, especially with respect to the product’s potential to cause harm or injury.

Why Was the Sulzer Hip Implant Recalled ?

In 2000, many of the patients that received the sulzer hip implant launched complaints about the increasing pain in their hip. The manufacturer, Sulzer Orthopedics then launched an investigation into the matter and found that the “acetabular shell” piece of the product was defective. The specific piece of the hip implant is the piece that was inserted into the upper portion of the hip and designed to bond the hip implant with natural bone.

However, due to an oily residue that was mistakenly left on the shell during the manufacturing process, the acetabular shell was unable to properly bond with the bone as intended. This caused the hip implants to fall apart within the body, which resulted in serious harm to the consumers that had received the hip implant affected by the oily residue.

Patients that had received the hip implant with the manufacturing defect experienced pain in their groin and inner thigh area, as well as other pain associated with the use of their hip, such as pain when rising from a seated position. Due to the pain from the defective product, almost all of the patients that received the implant needed revision surgery to correct the defective product.

How Many Sulzer Hip Implants Have Been Recalled?

In the same year as their investigation, Sulzer Orthopedics recalled all of the defective acetabular shells that were affected by the oily residue. In fact, over 40,000 hip implants were recalled due to defective manufacturing. After many civil lawsuits were initiated against Sulzer, a class action lawsuit was eventually initiated.

In an effort to try and settle the civil disputes quickly, a class action settlement that exceeded $1 billion was offered to victims of both the recalled hip and knee replacement devices. The class action settlement also gave qualified class action members the right to receive other additional benefits, dependent on their individual cases.

Do I Need an Attorney for Help With Sulzer Hip Implants?

If you or someone you know was injured from using a Sulzer Hip Implant, you should immediately contact an experienced class action attorney in your area. An experienced class action attorney that specializes in class action lawsuits will be able to determine whether or not you may participate in the class and recover from your injuries as a result of the defective sulzer hip implant.

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