Plastic surgery, when done correctly using safe and proper medical devices and products, can result in a heightened sense of self-esteem and a greater overall sense of well being. When something goes wrong, the consequences can be life altering or even life threatening. Litigation involving plastic surgery can relate to a mistake the surgeon made, thus a medical malpractice case, or the case can involve a particular defective product, which usually gives rise to products liability claims. In either case, the advice and counsel of an experienced malpractice, products liability, or personal injury attorney is helpful to determine whether a valid claim exists and to ensure the best possible outcome.
One of the most prevalent types of medical-device products liability lawsuits in recent years involves breast implants. Breast implant litigation has included many individual lawsuits, as well as class action suits involving large groups of women, alleging that they have been injured by and suffered serious health consequences as a result of leaking silicone or other defects in their implants. Many of these cases have resulted in jury verdicts or settlements in favor of the injured women. Breast implants are not the only medical devices that have been the subject of litigation, but they are perhaps the most noteworthy in the plastic surgery context.
In breast implant cases, as in any case involving an allegedly dangerous product, the manufacturer and perhaps others in the chain of distribution may be held liable for damages caused by the defective product. Possible claims include negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty, and possible defendants include the manufacturer of the product itself, the manufacturer of a component part, a distributor of the product, and the product seller.
A negligence claim focuses on the conduct of the manufacturer. It requires the plaintiff to prove that the product’s maker failed to live up to the standard of care due by the manufacturer to the product users, and that such failure was the cause of the plaintiff’s injury. A strict liability suit, by contrast, focuses on the defective product rather than the conduct of the manufacturer or other parties in the chain of distribution. The plaintiff in a strict liability case must prove that a defect made the product unreasonably dangerous and that such defect caused the plaintiff’s injuries. A breach of warranty claim, on the other hand, is based on the argument that the manufacturer did not live up to certain promises it expressly, or by implication, made and that as a result the plaintiff was injured.
The plaintiff may be able to recover any medical expenses that resulted from the defect, any lost wages, and damages for physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement, and physical impairment. In certain cases, the plaintiff may also be able to recover punitive damages, which are not designed to directly compensate the plaintiff for her losses but are rather intended to punish the defendant for particularly bad conduct and to deter such conduct in the future, not only by that party but by others in similar positions. In addition, a family member of the injured party may be able to recover for his or her loss of consortium, meaning the value of the lost services and companionship of their loved one.
A medical device products liability claim, whether in the plastic surgery arena or otherwise, involves complex legal and technical issues, so an injured party considering a claim or wondering whether she has a valid one should waste no time in consulting an attorney. These claims, like most others, are subject to a statute of limitations, which means that they may only be raised during the time period defined by statutory law, and once that time expires, no damages may be recovered. The attorney who reviews the case may advise the injured party not to proceed if the attorney thinks that there is little or no chance of recovering damages. The potential plaintiff always has the right to seek another attorney for a second opinion, however, to see if the result of that consultation may vary.
If an attorney does decide to take the case, he or she will often work on a contingency fee basis, which means that the attorneys’ fees will be calculated as a percentage of any damages recovered. If there is no recovery, there are no fees, but certain out-of-pocket expenses may still have to be paid. Most cases settle before trial. Litigation can be a long, drawn-out ordeal, and the plaintiff may wait months or years to see the process through to its best conclusion.
If you have been injured by a medical device or product used in a plastic surgery procedure, you may be able to make a claim against the manufacturer or seller of the device and possibly against the medical staff and hospital involved in the procedure. When seeking an attorney to represent you in connection with such a claim, be sure to investigate his or her background in products liability, medical malpractice, or personal injury law. Ask questions about his or her training and experience so that you can make an informed decision about whether this is the right person to zealously represent your interests against a big company that may have many more resources than you do to fight the claims against it. Only with a veteran products liability, malpractice, or personal injury attorney on your side can you be sure to achieve an outcome that best compensates you for your losses.