Judge Dismisses Nearly All Claims in Medtronic Stapler Case

On Thursday, the Arizona District Court issued an order in a case against medical tech company Medtronic. The underlying complaint alleges regarding product liability resulting from a medical stapler incident during surgery on the plaintiff.

The judge granted a bid to strike expert testimony on a manufacture defect, and partially granted summary judgment, eliminating claims for negligent design, negligent manufacture, negligent failure to warn, and design defect, but retaining the claim for manufacture defect.

The plaintiff, per court documents, under went a gastric procedure to remove the stomach in 2017. As a part of this procedure, the surgeon attempted to use an  EEAXL2535 single user model stapler to create an anastomosis (closure) and finish the surgery. The stapler fired properly, but no staples were deployed. The plaintiffs esophagus was torn during the deployment and the procedure had to be completed manually. In review of the product by the defendant, the manufacturer discovered there were no staples in the device and when staples were added, the device functioned correctly. As the stapler is marketed as a single use device with staples already loaded, the plaintiff claim was modified to allege that the stapler was incorrectly delivered without staples and was defective.

The expert witness, Dr. Adams, had testimony that included that it was expected that a single use stapler be loaded with staples, and the lack of staples in a single use stapler would be considered a manufacturing defect. The court held that the plaintiff did not argue that the witness was competent to opine that a lack of staples was a marketing defect and struck that testimony, but permitted the testimony that a surgeon would expect a single use stapler to be loaded with staples. The court acknowledged that “the theory of liability under implied warranty has been merged into the doctrine of strict liability” and merged the claims.

The court then reviewed the plaintiff’s claims for negligent design, negligent manufacture, negligent failure to warn, and strict-liability design defect. The court held that the plaintiff had not produced any evidence that there was a failure in the design of the stapler, only in the fact that when assembled this particular stapler was not filled with staples, and the court dismissed both claims regarding design. Finally the court permitted the strict liability count, stating that the plaintiff had provided both a standard for the device as well as proof that the device had failed that standard, but the court dismissed the negligence count, stating that there was no allegation made by the plaintiff as to what the manufacturer had done negligently.

Plaintiff is represented by Hymson Goldstein Pantiliat & Lohr. Defendant is represented by Greenberg Traurig and Shook, Hardy & Bacon