Arguing Design Defects in IVC Filter Litigation

IVC filters save many lives and it is impossible to make a perfect product. In individual cases, though, there can be circumstances where the device can create more harm than benefits. Some of these circumstance include:

  • medical negligence
  • the filter was used in circumstances where it was not appropriate to place the filter
  • the doctor is at fault for mishaps with the device rather than the manufacturer
  • an acute injury, like a car accident, can cause the filter to fracture rather than a design defect

All of these things are very case specific, however, and would have to be investigated on an individual level. Although each case is different, design defects with products like IVC filters do happen. Deciding what to demonstrate when arguing a design defect case varies based on state law. Design defect cases take two forms, failure to warn and strict liability design defect.

Failure to Warn

In the case of failure to warn, there is a design defect that manufacturers know about, however, they did not warn consumers about it. By not warning consumers, they were unaware of the design defect and could not make an informed decision. The manufacturer should have put out a warning so consumers could make an informed decision and weigh out the costs and benefits of the particular product, which in this case, is a medical device.

Strict Liability Design Defect

Strict liability design defect is the other possible type of case design defects. These cases vary from state to state, but overall there are two tests. The first is whether or not the device operated in a way that a consumer would expect it to under normal conditions.

The second is whether the risks of the device outweigh the benefits, or vice versa. There clearly is some benefit for some consumers of IVC filters. IVC filters have certainly saved somebody’s life who may have had a pulmonary embolism without it. The question, however, is whether that benefit is outweighed by the risk in a given individual or on a population level.

All of those factors can be considered by the jury in determining whether there was a design defect for which a manufacturer ought to be held liable.

Alternative Designs and Cost Benefit Analysis

Besides the cost-benefit analysis of weighing out the pros and cons of having the device, determining the way the device worked is another major factor. It is important to look at a product or device and see whether it worked the way a consumer would have expected it to work under normal conditions of use.

Alternative designs vary state by state. Some states require proof by the plaintiff that there is a viable alternative design, which means proving that a better device could have been built. There are other states, though, like Florida, which do not require this proof. Instead, it is enough to show that the original design was faulty rather than also showing proof that there was potential for a better design.

Damages Awarded in Design Defect Cases

Damages awarded in design defect cases are the same as any typical personal injury case. In the circumstance of a jury trial, damages are awarded based on the evidence put on in court of hard losses, such as medical expenses that would not have been incurred if not for negligence or the defective product. Cases involving multiple surgeries, such as trying to get the filter out or complications branching from it, involve a great deal of medical expense that should not have been incurred and would not have been incurred if the filters were not defective.

There are also non-economic damages, like pain, suffering, and mental anguish, that can come from a defective medical device. In these cases, the consumer of the device has lost time from work, as well as the ability to work in the future if disabled by the device. Lost wage-earning capacity can play a role if the injured person is someone who used to work in a very physically demanding job, but now has struts piercing their IVC. Under these circumstances, they cannot do physically demanding work for fear of penetrating another organ, and, as a result, may lose income. In death cases, there are also specialized damages for the estate and damages for survivors for the loss of companionship.

You may even, in a personal injury case, have what is called loss of consortium, where a spouse or, in some circumstances, even a dependent child may have a claim that their quality of life has been affected by the injuries sustained to the person who actually have the filter.