Mack v. Stryker – Pain Pump Maker Couldn’t Have Known Risks, Court Rules

Those seeking compensation for injuries suffered as a result of older pain pump implants manufactured by Stryker Corp. are going to have a tougher time proving liability, following the decisions in Mack v. Stryker and Rodriguez v. Stryker, handed down by the Eight Circuit and Sixth Circuit federal appellate courts.
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The issue is not whether these devices caused harm. Certainly, there is little question they did. At issue is whether the defendant knew or should have known their device caused harm, and yet failed to warn of potential dangers.

Greenville personal injury attorneys recognize that the divided rulings will likely impact those whose implants were initiated prior to 2007. It was at this time, the courts indicated, that medical knowledge regarding the potential harm of these devices was first noted. That means those with injuries sustained post-2007 still may have a strong case for damages.

It’s worth noting that a settlement agreement reached in Stevens v. Stryker Corp. last year in Wisconsin stemmed from a 2004 surgery.

Those with earlier claims might still proceed, though success will depend largely on what proof can be presented regarding corporate knowledge of the issue at the time the device was implanted in that particular patient.

For those unfamiliar, surgical pain pumps are used to inject anesthetic directly into a surgical site immediately after an operation. The problem is that the device is associated with a condition known as chondrolysis. This occurs when normal cartilage cells in a joint is rapidly destroyed, resulting in severe arthritis.

Treatment depends on the cause of the destruction and the particular joint involved. Generally, though, there is no way to reverse the damage.

The lawsuits allege that local anesthetics in high dosages have a toxic effect on the cartilage cells.

The Mack case was brought by a Minnesota woman who underwent shoulder surgery in the summer of 2002 to address persistent pain. At the end of the procedure, a pain pump manufactured and marketed by Stryker was used to deliver that local anesthetic.

Like so many other patients who underwent this treatment, the plaintiff began to experience additional pain following the surgery, resulting in additional treatment and therapy. The following year, she was diagnosed with chondrolysis. She had to undergo several more surgeries to combat the effects, and still suffers persistent pain.

She sued Stryker in 2010 asserting negligence and strict product liability based on defective design and failure to warn.

The district court granted the defense motion for summary judgment on the basis that the medical literature that existed at the time of the 2002 procedure made it not reasonably foreseeable to the defense that the use of its device would result in joint damage. The court indicated that hindsight speculation would be required to find favor for the plaintiff.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed, mirroring the earlier decision and reasoning in the similar Rodriguez case.

Contact our Greenville personal injury lawyers at Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Mack, et al. v. Stryker Corp., et al., May 12, 2014, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

More Blog Entries:
Spinal Implants Causing Paralysis in Some Patients, April 30, 2014, Greenville Product Liability Lawyer Blog

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