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Plaintiff lacked expert testimony as to the allegedly defective design and breach of warranty claims and plaintiff’s failure to warn claim failed on the basis of the learned intermediary doctrine.

July 1, 2019
Ferrari v. Johnson & Johnson, Inc., 190 Conn. App. 152 (2019)

The plaintiff underwent spinal surgery at Hartford Hospital. The procedure included a posterolateral fusion in which the plaintiff’s surgeon implanted various components of the defendants’ spinal system product. A second surgery revealed a fracture of the left titanium rod of the spinal system. Thereafter, the plaintiff filed suit and alleged that the defendant’s product, a spinal system, was defective and that it caused him to sustain injuries. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted, arguing that the plaintiff failed to produce expert testimony to prove his claims of design defect and breach of warranty of the product, and that the plaintiff’s claims of failure to warn were barred due to the learned intermediary doctrine. The Appellate Court, in affirming the trial court’s rendering of summary judgment in favor of the defendants, held that the modified consumer expectation test applied, which requires expert testimony to establish the defective design, manufacture and feasibility of an alternative design. Because the product at issue was a complex product—a spinal system which includes stabilizing titanium rods that are implanted into a patient’s spine—expert testimony was required. As to the plaintiff’s claim of failure to warn, which focused on the conduct and influence of the defendants’ product representative, the court held that the learned intermediary doctrine barred this claim because the plaintiff did not present any evidence that the defendants’ representative said or did anything inconsistent with the product’s warnings, which the plaintiff admitted were adequate. 


Case Law Alerts, 3rd Quarter, July 2019

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