Medical Malpractice and Products Liability: When do they Mix?

Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional commits a negligent act against a patient during the course of the doctor patient relationship.  As you know, nearly every medical professional in nearly every medical setting uses some type of device when treating a patient. 

Experienced medical malpractice attorneys in and around the Hudson River Valley regions of New York have seen medical malpractice cases transform into products liability cases as well; the case can involve both areas of law.  Sometimes, what looks like a medical malpractice case is actually a products liability case.

There are several differences between medical malpractice and products liability cases.  First, the defendant in a medical malpractice case will be the treating medical professional and or the entity through which the medical professional was practicing; the hospital, clinic, pharmacy, etcetera.  Contrast this to a products liability defendant who is the company that manufactures medical devices, the companies who distribute the devices, and the retailers that sell those devices.  

If a medical device was designed defectively and such defect caused preventable and foreseeable injury to the patient, a products liability claim can be made.  The same holds true if the medical device was manufactured defectively.  And of course, many devices must come with warnings.  If there was a failure to warn of possible danger from misuse, for example, then a products liability claim can be made as well. 

The second main difference between medical malpractice and products liability is the following.  Medical malpractice relates to performing a service negligently, while products liability relates to placing a harmful product into the chain of supply; a product that was designed and or manufactured defectively, or one that carried an insufficient warning. 

What if a doctor knows that a medical device is defective and should not be used on a patient, but nonetheless uses the device when treating the patient?  The answer is that the doctor can be held accountable under theories of medical malpractice, and the product manufacturer, distributor, and or retailer can be held accountable under theories of products liability. 

In conclusion, you should understand that almost every object used during medical treatment falls within the definition of “medical device”.   It can be a heart monitor, thermometer, an x-ray machine, pacemakers, component parts required for hip replacement surgery, pins, rods, and or screws used to repair fractured bones, and so on.     

Of course there are many other differences between these two types of cases, such as the statute of limitations, the type of evidence required, and the types of witnesses required to successfully prove one’s case.  Since both areas of law are complex, only experienced medical malpractice attorneys should be called upon to litigate your claim. 

But what do you think?  I would love to hear from you!  Leave a comment or I also welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at [email protected]  You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com

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