Every now and then there’s a piece of litigation that boldly goes where no court has gone before and opens up a host of new legal issues.  Bone Screw was like that, with plaintiffs inventing new causes of action (fraud on the FDA and regulatory informed consent) and our side having to invent new defenses.  We also felt that way while we were involved in the Fagan v. AmerisourceBergen litigation involving the then novel concept of liability of non-counterfeiters for injuries caused by counterfeit drugs.

We’ve just seen another opinion, Kapps v. Biosense Webster, Inc., ___ F. Supp.2d ___, 2011 WL 4470701, slip op. (D. Minn. Sept. 27, 2011), that makes us feel the same way.  We can’t recall ever seeing an opinion previously that addressing liability issues in the context of a reprocessed medical device that allegedly failed due to defects introduced by the reprocessing.

Kapps involves something analogous to the aftermarket for automobile parts, only in the medical device field.  The product, a heart catheter, was originally manufactured as a single-use product – expressly stated in the product’s original labeling.  2011 WL 4470701, at *3.  Apparently the FDA has chosen not only to tolerate, but to affirmatively allow the particular type of off-label use:  the reprocessing and reuse of products whose labeling is limited to single use.  Id. at *5-6 (describing FDA regulation of reprocessing/reuse of single-use devices).  After being completely relabeled and refurbished according to relevant FDA regulations, the heart catheter was reused and broke inside the plaintiff’s heart.  Id. (refurbishing changed the device’s serial number, and replaced its labeling with its own).  Plaintiff sued both the aftermarket and original equipment manufacturers.

The 68-page Kapps opinion raises, and in some cases decides for the first time, many fascinating issues.

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