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Recently, in describing a decision granting summary judgment in an IVC filter case, we identified some additional analyses we would have liked to have seen:

[W]hile interrelated, we think the concepts of a “compensable injury” and causation are separate.  For instance, an exposure might cause a risk of future injury, but state law may hold that such a risk without present injury is not compensable.  Or a subclinical injury like pleural thickening may not be compensable, in part because of the inconsistency with the principles of accrual of claims for statute of limitations purposes.  Is a medical procedure not required by specific symptoms—regardless of what caused them—itself a compensable injury?  We think not.  A surgery may be part of the damages allegedly related to an injury allegedly caused by the drug/device/exposure, but is not an injury in and of itself.  Gomez did not delve into this either.

That same day—but well after we had set our prescient post to publish—the court in Fuss v. Boston Sci. Corp., No. 2019-02348, 2022 Mass. Super. LEXIS 251 (Mass. Super. Ct. Oct. 20, 2022), did those same analyses in another IVC filter case.  Rather than fall prey to the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy that plagues plaintiffs’ causation theories in so many drug and device product liability cases, we will admit this is mere coincidence.  After all, compensable injury seems like an obvious threshold issue in an IVC filter case where perforation of the inferior vena cava (IVC) is the only claimed injury.

Given the facts of Fuss, we will go a step further and say that it would be better if there were a way to get rid of cases without compensable injuries without the time and expense of going through fact and expert discovery and briefing an all-issues summary judgment motion with accompanying Daubert motion.  After a pulmonary embolism, plaintiff had his IVC filter implanted by an experienced vascular surgeon in 2007.  It has remained in place, without embolism or any symptoms tied a complication, for the fifteen years since.  Then plaintiff saw a lawyer advertisement, was sent by lawyers to get a CT scan ordered by a doctor he did not know and never met, and brought a lawsuit over an alleged perforation.  After suing, plaintiff conferred with his implanting surgeon, who, with the benefit of an x-ray, concluded the filter was doing its job and required no treatment or intervention.  In deposition, plaintiff admitted that he had been asymptomatic.  After the parties completed discovery and teed up motions for both summary judgment and exclusion Massachusetts’s version of a Daubert motion on plaintiff’s catchall expert, plaintiff still had never received any treatment or intervention.Continue Reading No Muss, No Fuss In Disposing Of Litigation-Driven “Injury”

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We write mostly about decisions in cases, with those mostly coming from judges. Occasionally, we will also comment on articles, amicus briefs, and official government pronouncements. We cannot remember the last time we explored a press release. In today’s political environment, speculation about what is contained in documents that purportedly exist but we cannot see

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Most of the cases we defend involve claims of inadequate warnings.  What makes a warning inadequate?  Falsehood is the first thing that comes to mind.  But the Pontius Pilate question of “What is truth?” continues to vex.  We have seen very few drug or device labels uttering an affirmative misrepresentation.  More often the complaint is about what the warning did not say, not what it did say.  If John Lennon sang “Gimme Some Truth,” plaintiff lawyers sing (off-key) “gimme some more truth.”  To our ears, it sounds like “gimme some more money.”  Whatever.  Plaintiffs allege that the product label did not disclose all of the serious side effects, or did not recite them with sufficient detail and drama.  There is a hierarchy of warning inadequacy.  A warning can ‘fail’ for any of various reasons.  You pays your money and you takes your choice.  Did the warning:

  • Fail to grab attention?
  • Fail to persuade?
  • Fail to change action?

The last test is a slam dunk.  If the consumer heeded the warning, we wouldn’t be enjoying each other’s company in the courtroom.  There would be no complaint.  Probably.

The first warnings we remember seeing were on cigarette packs.  The United States was the first country to require such warnings.  Back in 1966, the sides of cigarette packs were adorned with the following: “Caution:  Cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health.”  That warning did not include the word “warning.”  Change came a couple of years later.  In 1970, packs reminded us that the Surgeon General had determined that cigarettes were “dangerous.”  Still later, smokers were treated to rotating warnings.  Some packs warned of cancer, emphysema, heart disease, and pregnancy complications.  Some stated that cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide.  Some suggested that quitting now could improve one’s health.  And some warned pregnant smokers of possible fetal injury, premature birth, and low birth weight.  We heard that one fellow filed a lawsuit alleging that cigarettes had caused his lung cancer, while also claiming he had not been adequately warned, because he had made a point of buying only the packs that talked about pregnancy complications.  That case proved at least two things:  (a) no matter what, some people will smoke, and (b) no matter what, some people will file silly lawsuits.Continue Reading Warning: Lawyers May Be Hazardous To Your Health