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How Is Product Liability Different from Medical Malpractice?

The law has different names for different claims about who is responsible for an injury. When a defective product, such as a medical device, is responsible, the injured person can sue the maker, manufacturer, or seller of the product. This is called product liability. When negligently performed medical care caused the injury, the injured person can sue the medical professionals who provided the care. This is called medical malpractice. Not every injured person knows who is responsible at first, so the law allows people to initially claim both product liability and medical malpractice.

Product Liability

Dangerous and defective products are the focus of product liability. The law generally requires that products meet the ordinary expectations of a consumer. For example, a replacement hip is expected to work like a natural hip, a car is expected to safely take a person from place to place, and a baby toy is expected to be safe for a baby’s use. A product liability claim may arise when a product doesn’t work as expected, and someone is hurt as a result.

Different parties can be responsible for bad products. The law has developed different claims for suing each one. The designer of a product may be responsible if the product is defectively designed. The manufacturer of the product may be responsible if the product is defectively manufactured.  And the maker, manufacturer, and seller of a product may be responsible if a defective warning fails to inform the consumer of the product’s risks. Product liability claims may be based on legal theories of negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty.

Medical Malpractice

Poor medical care is the subject of medical malpractice. The focus is on the medical professional and his or her performance.  Medical care covers all medical treatment, from diagnosis to surgery and recuperation. It’s not limited to doctors. Nurses, hospitals, health care facilities, drug companies, and anyone providing health care services can be held responsible.

Medical malpractice focuses on negligence in the health care world. A successful medical malpractice lawsuit requires proof of at least three things: there must be a duty owed to a patient, that duty must be breached, and some injury to the patient must result from that breach of duty. This language is broad because it must cover all sorts of different situations. For example, doctors may make mistaken diagnoses, nurses may fail to monitor patients, and hospitals may fail to properly train staff. All of these situations are potentially covered by medical malpractice law.

Product Liability and Medical Malpractice

Product liability and medical malpractice frequently work together. When a patient is injured, the source of the injury is not always clear at first. For example, a woman may be injured because the transvaginal mesh used to treat her pelvic organ prolapse failed. Alternatively, she may be injured because her doctor mistakenly placed the mesh in the wrong place. The exact cause is often determined only after filing a lawsuit.