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From Products Liability Law Daily, January 5, 2016

Court allows amended complaint subject to conditions and denies manufacturer’s request for dismissal

By Kathleen Bianco, J.D.

A motion to dismiss a products liability complaint that allegedly did not identify what made a hip replacement system defective or show a causal connection between the alleged defect and the injuries sustained by the implant patient was denied by the federal district court in South Carolina. The court, however, granted the patient leave to amend her complaint because it lacked specificity (Stieglitz v. Stryker Corp., January 4, 2016, Duffy, P.).

This products liability action arose following a hip replacement surgery allegedly gone wrong. In 2012, the patient had a Stryker hip replacement system implanted. Soon after the surgery, she began to experience extreme discomfort. She began to walk with an abnormal gait and fell several times. The plaintiff contended that these conditions were caused by defective components in the hip replacement system. Specifically, the patient alleged that the hip replacement system was defectively designed and manufactured because a screw in the acetabular component of the system penetrated her acetabulum and pelvis causing her significant pain. The patient filed a product liability suit under South Carolina law against the manufacturer of the hip replacement system. The suit alleged claims for strict liability, breach of express and implied warranties, and negligence.

The manufacturer moved to dismiss the claims, arguing that the plaintiff failed to allege facts sufficient to state a claim for relief under any of her asserted causes of action. The patient responded by asking for leave to file an amended complaint.

Product liability claims. In order to assert a valid product liability claim under South Carolina law, a plaintiff must allege that (1) he or she was injured by the product, (2) the product was in the same condition, at the time of the accident, as it was when it left the manufacturer’s control, and (3) the injury occurred because the product was in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user. The manufacturer claimed that neither the original complaint nor the amended complaint complied with basic pleading standards. However, the standards applied by the manufacturer seemed to differ from the standards recognized by the court. In this case, the patient must sufficiently establish a product liability claim under South Carolina substantive law, not demonstrate an exception to federal preemption as the manufacturer seemed to contend was required. Based on the facts, the court concluded that the patient had asserted a valid claim regarding the acetabular screw. Thus, the manufacturer’s motion to dismiss was denied.

Nevertheless, the court did agree with the manufacturer that other allegations asserted by the patient in the amended complaint lacked sufficient specificity. The claims articulating “other defects,” “other nonconformities,” and “other things” causing harm must be removed from the amended complaint within 14 days. A failure to remove those claims from the complaint will reopen the door for the manufacturer to refile its motion to dismiss.

The case is No. 2:15-cv-1680-PMD.

Attorneys: Mark David Ball (Peters Murdaugh Parker Eltzroth and Detrick) for Tammy Lynette Stieglitz. Brian Edward Johnson (Hood Law Firm) for Stryker Corp.

Companies: Stryker Corp.

MainStory: TopStory CourtDecisions DesignManufacturingNews MedicalDevicesNews SouthCarolinaNews

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