Kentucky Federal Court Rules in Favor of Medical Device Manufacturer; Injured Man Failed to Participate in Discovery

by Mandy Hicks

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky recently ruled in favor of a medical device manufacturer in a products liability case in which the plaintiff did not participate in written discovery. In Johnson v. Zimmer Holdings, Inc., a man had four medical devices implanted into his body when he underwent hip surgery in 2010. Unfortunately, the man’s hip dislocated at least six times between 2010 and 2012. About two years after his initial surgery, the man underwent a second procedure to replace three of the four medical products. Following the second surgery, the man filed a products liability lawsuit in a Kentucky federal court against the manufacturer of the medical devices that were initially implanted into his body. According to his complaint, the man experienced pain, suffering, emotional distress, and unnecessary surgery as a result of the medical device manufacturer’s defective products.

Pursuant to the Eastern District of Kentucky’s scheduling order, the parties entered into the discovery stage of the lawsuit. This is a pre-trial phase of a case in which each party is entitled to request certain relevant information from the opposing side. Discovery may include depositions, interrogatory and document requests, and more. Although the medical device manufacturer served the allegedly harmed man with written discovery requests, he failed to submit any discovery requests prior to the deadline that was imposed by the court. As a result, the medical device manufacturer filed a motion for summary judgment in the case.

When a party to a lawsuit seeks summary judgment, the moving party is asserting that no issue of material fact is in dispute and that the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. When considering such a motion, a court is normally required to view all facts in the light that is most favorable to the non-moving party. Additionally, summary judgment is also proper against a party who did not establish an essential element of his or her case following a sufficient time period during which to engage in discovery.

After stating that Kentucky law applied to the case, the court examined if the plaintiff met his burden of establishing the elements required in order to prevail in a products liability lawsuit. According to the court, a plaintiff seeking to demonstrate a products liability claim must prove both that a defect existed and causation. In general, causation in a products liability case is demonstrated by showing the defendant’s conduct was a substantial factor in the plaintiff’s injury. The court said that, although circumstantial evidence may be used to show causation, demonstrating the mere possibility that the defendant caused a plaintiff’s harm is not enough.

Next, the federal court examined the evidence offered by the device manufacturer. The court stated the man failed to dispute the evidence or offer any material facts to counter the manufacturer’s claims in its motion for summary judgment.  Since the deadline for discovery passed before the manufacturer filed its motion for summary judgment, the court found that it was impossible for the man to demonstrate sufficient evidence to maintain his products liability claims.  Since no material issue of fact was in dispute, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky granted the medical device manufacturer’s motion and entered judgment in the company’s favor.

Whenever you are involved in a lawsuit, you need an attorney who understands how all courts work and who will help you meet court deadlines to ensure your case is taken seriously by the courts. If you or someone close to you was hurt by a defectively designed or manufactured medical or pharmaceutical product, you need a knowledgeable Bowling Green attorney on your side to help you protect your rights. To schedule a free, confidential consultation with a Kentucky personal injury lawyer, call English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP at (270) 781-6500 or contact us online.

Additional Resources:

Johnson v. Zimmer Holdings, Inc., U.S. Dist. Court, Eastern District of Kentucky 2014

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