Tennessee Court was proper forum for medical product injury lawsuit against maker of hip replacement

by Mandy Hicks

By Jessica Surber
Attorney, English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

Product liability lawsuits proceed under the theory that manufacturers and sellers should be held accountable for injuries resulting from defects that make a product unreasonably unsafe. As with other lawsuits, a trial court must have jurisdiction (both personal and subject matter) over a defendant before it can proceed to adjudicate the issues between the parties.

Sometimes, a defendant may argue that, although the court technically has jurisdiction over the case, the court should decline to exercise that jurisdiction because justice would be better served in another forum.

In the recent case of Pantuso v. Wright Medical Technology, Inc., a Utah man filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Shelby County, Tennessee, seeking to recover damages resulting from an allegedly defective hip replacement device. Although the defendant manufacturer admitted that its principal place of business was Tennessee, it filed a motion to dismiss the man’s complaint on the doctrine of forum non conveniens.

Allegations in the Complaint

The man’s medical product injury lawsuit alleged that the defendant manufacturer had designed, manufactured, and marketed a certain “Profemur” hip replacement system and that his doctor had implanted such a device into both his hips in 2007. The surgery took place in Utah.

The man stated that his left hip replacement device failed in 2013, and it was removed and replaced with a device from a different company. Although the man retained the device that was implanted on his right side, he said that the risk of its possible failure prevented him from enjoying the level of activity that he should have been able to enjoy based on the product’s marketing.

Proceeding in the Trial Court

The manufacturer filed a motion to dismiss the man’s complaint, arguing that the trial court should decline jurisdiction over the case under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. As grounds, the manufacturer argued that Utah was the appropriate forum because that’s where the man lived and where all of his medical treatment occurred. The manufacturer argued that it would not have access to third-party witnesses or documents in Utah because such would be beyond the subpoena range of the Tennessee court, and also it would be a burden on the Tennessee court to apply the law of Utah to the case.

The trial court denied the manufacturer’s motion, and the manufacturer appealed.

The Decision of the Tennessee Court of Appeals

After weighing the factors at issue, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s denial of the manufacturer’s motion to dismiss and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. The court was not persuaded by the manufacturer’s argument that requiring it to litigate in its home state would cause it considerable expense and inconvenience, nor did the court accept the manufacturer’s argument that the Tennessee court would be overburdened by the litigation at hand.

To Get Advice About a Medical Product Injury

If you or a family member has been hurt because of a dangerous or defective drug or medical product, you have a legal right to pursue damages from the seller or manufacturer of the product. To speak to an experienced pharmaceutical and medical product liability attorney, call me, Jessica Surber, at English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley for an appointment at (270) 781-6500. Our offices are located in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and we accept clients throughout south central Kentucky and middle Tennessee.

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