Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) has received more attention than perhaps ever before. While Americans anxiously awaited for approval of a COVID-19 vaccine, the FDA and its regulatory scheme were ever-present topics on the news and in social media. The American population’s newfound familiarity with the FDA is especially pertinent in a medical device litigation context. As litigators well know, jurors already enter a courtroom with preconceived notions of medical device companies, the FDA and the relationship between the two. So how will this newfound knowledge of the FDA influence juror opinions? Put another way, what would happen if a jury participating in a medical device trial failed to hear any reference to the FDA at all? Potentially, the results would be catastrophic to device manufacturers.
On March 2, 2021, a New Jersey appellate court overturned two pelvic mesh jury verdicts totaling over $83 million dollars, holding that the trial courts committed reversible error by excluding all evidence related to the FDA clearance process. This decision represents a substantial victory for medical device manufacturers, particularly in light of the staggering jury verdicts that have been handed down over the past few years.
This ruling represents two separate cases that were consolidated for purposes of appeal. See Hrymoc et al., v. Ethicon Inc. et al., Docket No. A-005151-17, and McGinnis et al. v. C.R. Bard Inc. et al., Docket No. A-001038-18. In both cases, the respective juries found the medical device defendants liable for design and failure-to-warn defects that caused injuries to plaintiffs. In Hrymoc, the jury awarded the plaintiff and her husband $5 million in compensatory damages, and $10 million in punitive damages. Conversely, in McGinnis, the jury awarded the plaintiff and her husband $33 million in compensatory damages, and $35 million in punitive damages. Continue reading “510(k) Clearance Evidence Gains New Life After $83 Million Verdicts Overturned”
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently addressed the question of what pleading standard is required in Massachusetts to allege parallel state law claims involving medical devices to avoid preemption under the federal law regulating medical devices. The Court’s decision sheds light on the lack of consensus among state and federal courts on this issue, which may impact the time and resources that litigants and the courts expend on claims that may later prove to be meritless.
As background, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) must approve or clear medical devices before they can be marketed or sold to the public. The approval process employed depends upon the category of the medical device. Under the Medical Device Amendments of 1976 (the “MDA”) to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the “FDCA”), devices are separated into three categories depending on the potential risks they present: Class I, Class II, and Class III. Class I devices “are those that present no unreasonable risk of illness or injury and therefore require only general manufacturing controls; Class II devices are those possessing a greater potential dangerousness and thus warranting more stringent controls; Class III devices ‘presen[t] a potential unreasonable risk of illness or injury’ and therefore incur the FDA’s strictest regulation.” Buckman Co. v. Plaintiffs’ Legal Comm., 531 U.S. 341, 343-44 (2001) (citation omitted); see also 21 U.S.C. § 360c. Class III devices include replacement heart valves, implanted cerebella stimulators, and pacemaker pulse generators, among other devices. Riegel v. Medronic, 552 U.S. 312, 316 (2008). Continue reading “Parallel or Preempted? The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Highlights the Inconsistency Among Courts Regarding Pleading Standards for Parallel Claims Involving Medical Devices”
With each passing year, the long-predicted aspirational advantages of 3D printing in the life sciences industry become a reality. Forecasts of large scale printing operations at or near major hospitals are fulfilled. Visions of bioprinted organs have become a reality. 3D printing is reaching the lofty potential projected by the life sciences industry years ago. However, the topic of litigation risks with 3D printing in the life science industry is often overlooked. […]
Yet, the widespread use of additive manufacturing by companies and individuals outside of the life sciences industry also underscores the potential litigation risks with 3D printing.
Artificial intelligence (AI), once little-known outside of academic circles and science fiction films, has become a household phrase. That trend will continue to expand as the public becomes more exposed to AI technology in everyday products, ranging from their cars and home appliances to wearable devices capable of tracking the metrics of their everyday routines. Perhaps no facet of AI has sparked observers’ imaginations more than machine learning (ML), which is precisely as it sounds: the ability of computer programs to “automatically improve with experience.” Machine learning lies at the heart of the kind of independent and superhuman computer power most people dream of when they consider AI.
While the public’s imagination is free to run wild with the promises of ML—creating an appetite that will no doubt be met with an equal and opposite response from businesses around the world—traditional policy and law-making bodies will be left with the task of trying to adapt existing legal and regulatory frameworks to it. Therefore it bears consideration how existing products liability norms might apply to AI/ML-based products, if at all, and what sort of uncertainties may arise for product manufacturers, distributors, and sellers. No enterprise better illustrates the careful balance between the endless potential of AI against the unique risks of products liability concerns than the medical device industry. This article discusses the uses and unique benefits of AI in the medical device context, while also exploring the developing products liability risks.