Articles Posted in Causation

It is common knowledge that the manufacturer of a product may be held liable for injuries arising from that product’s faulty design or construction. However, many are unaware the manufacturer may, in certain circumstances, be held liable for certain risks its product poses, even if the risks fall short of being a design defect. The issue of when a manufacturer needs to provide warning to a consumer was recently addressed in Trek Bicycle Corporation v. Miguelez, a recent decision from Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals.

The plaintiff in this case was riding a bicycle manufactured by Trek Bicycle Corporation along the Rickenbacker Causeway in Miami when the bicycle abruptly stopped. As a result, the plaintiff was jolted onto the handlebars and then to the ground of the causeway. The plaintiff sustained various face, jaw, and shoulder injuries. An examination of the bicycle revealed that an object had become lodged in the front wheel. Consequently, the object had hit the back side of the front carbon fiber forks of the bike, which caused the wheel to stop abruptly. The plaintiff brought suit against Trek as well as the retailer from which he purchased the bike. He asserted various product liability claims, including defective manufacture and defective design of the carbon forks. In addition, he brought a negligence claim predicated on the defendants’ failure to warn about the characteristics of the carbon fiber that created an added risk of wheel stoppage. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion for a directed verdict on the product liability claims, but it declined to grant the motion for a directed verdict on the failure to warn claim. Following the conclusion of the trial, the jury returned a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor on the failure to warn claim. The jury only found Trek liable for failure to warn and awarded 800,000 dollars in damages.

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Medical malpractice litigation is not uncommon in Florida. As a result, many state courts have had the occasion to weigh in on the proper standard for medical negligence liability. Although there is harmony among state courts regarding most issues, division does occasionally arise and consequently require resolution by Florida’s highest court. For instance, in one recent case, Saunders v. Dickens, the Supreme Court of Florida resolved a conflict among various state appellate courts regarding the burden of proof for negligence in a medical malpractice action.

The alleged acts of medical negligence that gave rise to Saunders started on July 7, 2003. On that day, the plaintiff visited a neurologist and described symptoms including cramping and feelings of numbness in his extremities, back pain, leg pain, and unsteadiness. After this visit, the plaintiff was admitted to a hospital, where he underwent several MRIs, which did not include an MRI of the cervical spine area. The neurologist then consulted with a neurosurgeon after receiving the results of the MRIs. The neurosurgeon recommended a lumbar decompression procedure, and the plaintiff underwent surgery. However, the plaintiff’s condition failed to improve following the surgery. At this point, the plaintiff returned to the neurosurgeon, who conducted further exams and determined that the plaintiff was experiencing cervical decompression, which would require additional surgery. The surgery was never scheduled, although the plaintiff had been cleared for surgery on November 6.

However, the plaintiff experienced a deep vein thrombosis in December, which prevented the plaintiff from scheduling or undergoing surgery thereafter. The plaintiff then consulted with a different physician, who recommended a second lumbar decompression surgery as well as a cervical decompression surgery. The plaintiff underwent the lumbar surgery but never underwent the cervical surgery. The plaintiff’s condition continued to deteriorate and ultimately resulted in quadriplegia. During the pendency of this appeal, the plaintiff died.

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