Massachusetts Appellate Court Affirms Dismissal of Product Liability Lawsuit Against Birth Control Patch Manufacturer

In September of last year, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts issued a written opinion in a product liability lawsuit brought by the surviving family members of a 17-year-old college student who died after suffering from a pulmonary embolism allegedly caused by her use of the defendant’s birth-control patch. In affirming the dismissal of the plaintiffs’ case, the court determined that the manufacturer properly warned potential users of the specific dangers of using the patch, and there was no “feasible and safer alternative” that the manufacturer could have used in manufacturing the patch.

Product liability lawyer BrocktonThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s daughter was a sexually active college student who was looking for a back-up form of birth control in addition to condoms. The student and her mother met with the student’s doctor, who initially provided a prescription for an oral contraceptive. Several months after taking the oral contraceptive, the student stopped taking the pill. Again, she approached her doctor in hopes of finding another alternative. The doctor provided her with a prescription for the defendant’s birth-control patch.

The doctor told the student and her mother about the risks involved with using the patch, which included blood clots. In addition, when the student picked up the prescription, there was a paper insert in the packaging explaining the risks associated with the use of the patch. Three months after using the patch, the student died from a massive pulmonary embolism.

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Judges have many duties when they oversee a personal injury trial. One of a judge’s most important roles is to make evidentiary rulings to ensure that the jury considers only relevant and probative evidence. This requires a judge to apply the rules of evidence to determine which evidence is admissible and which evidence is not admissible.

GavelOften, there is considerable litigation over the admissibility of evidence. In some cases, evidence that is very favorable to a party may not be admitted before the jury. When this is the case, that party is prohibited from referring to that evidence at all. A party’s reference to inadmissible evidence or a party’s improper comment on admitted evidence may require the judge to provide a curative instruction to the jury. In a recent medical malpractice case, the plaintiff took issue with the judge’s curative instruction after the plaintiff’s counsel made what the judge determined to be an improper comment.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a young child who suffered serious birth injuries and died within a few minutes of being born. The plaintiffs filed a medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit against the physicians who cared for the baby’s mother during her delivery. Essentially, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendants failed to correctly monitor the baby’s heart rate and waited too long to perform a necessary cesarean section.

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Will This Decision Affect My Brockton Personal Injury Case?

Earlier last year, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts issued a written decision in an interesting premises liability case that required the court to discuss the “mode of operation” doctrine. In the case, Amara v. Falcon Holding Corporation, the court determined that the facts of the plaintiff’s accident did not fall within the doctrine, and the court ultimately affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case.

Wet Floor SignThe Facts of the Case

Amara was attending a conference at a Sheraton Hotel. On a trip to the restroom, Amara slipped and fell on the ceramic tile floor, sustaining serious injuries as a result. Upon getting up, she noticed that the floor was covered in a wet foamy substance that smelled like furniture polish. Upon further investigation, Amara located an uncapped bottle of furniture polish in a nearby cabinet that was leaking onto the floor. Evidently, another person attending the conference thought that it was an air freshener and sprayed the substance accordingly.

Amara filed a premises liability lawsuit against the owner of the hotel. In response, the hotel asked for the case to be dismissed because the plaintiff had failed to provide evidence that the owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition on the floor. Amara did not argue that anyone at the hotel knew about the spill but instead argued that under the “mode of operation” doctrine, the hotel could still be held liable. The trial court disagreed with Amara and granted the hotel’s motion to dismiss. Amara appealed.

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Medical Malpractice – “Continuing Course Of Treatment” Doctrine

Last year, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts issued a written opinion in a medical malpractice case that required the court to discuss the continuing course of treatment doctrine as it applies to late-filed medical malpractice cases. The court ultimately determined that the doctrine does apply under Massachusetts law, but it only tolls a statute of limitations up to the point at which the allegedly negligent physician stops treating the patient.

The Continuing Course of Treatment Doctrine

Medical malpractice cases must be filed within a certain period of time, or by law, the court must dismiss the case. These time limits are called statutes of limitations. Generally speaking, a statute of limitations begins when the cause of actions accrues, meaning when the negligent medical act is performed. However, in some cases, a patient may not realize that they have been a victim of medical malpractice until months or years later.

In situations in which a patient does not immediately realize their injuries, there is an exception to the statute of limitations, and it may be extended or “tolled.” Under this exception, a statute of limitations will not start until the plaintiff realizes that they have been injured.

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