Every now and then even Bexis comes across a decision involving legal propositions he’d never heard of before. Such was the human tissue case Kennedy-McInnis v. Biomedical Tissue Services, Ltd., No. 13-CV-6545, slip op. (W.D.N.Y. April 12, 2016). Kennedy-McInnis introduced us to the common-law “right of sepulcher” – and more importantly to the defenses, including broad “good faith “ immunity, that limit this little known “right.”
First, why should anybody interested in drug/device product liability care? The answer is that a lot of products, particularly implantable medical devices, are used in conjunction with so-called “allograft bone.” As everyone knows, many other types of tissue are transplanted as well. Other medical devices, and some drugs, are typically used in conjunction with – or to support transplants of – various types of human tissue that doctors and hospitals typically obtain from tissue banks. Human tissue used in this manner can be extremely medically beneficial – and anything so beneficial is potentially worth a great deal.
Anything that’s worth a great deal creates a market for itself, and in our market-based society, there is always temptation for somebody in the chain of distribution to cut corners. When that happens, we’ve seen product manufacturers end up getting sued. Thus, we have blogged several times about litigation involving human tissue incorporated into certain medical devices, and allegations that fly-by-night (and convicted) intermediaries hadn’t bothered testing the tissue in question for communicable diseases. Ultimately, the litigation fizzled because, as bad as the intermediaries’ conduct had been, plaintiffs couldn’t prove that it actually caused anybody to get sick.