Poole Shaffery & Koegle Wins Summary Judgement in Favor of Medical Device Manufacturer

(MAY 14, 2021) - On May 14, 2021, our team successfully obtained another victory by way of summary judgment in favor of a medical device manufacturer. In Jose Riera, et al. v. Mecta Corporation, et al. (United States District Court Central District of California Case No. 2:17-cv-06686-RGK-JC), plaintiffs alleged that they suffered brain damage and resulting long-term and/or permanent cognitive impairment after undergoing electroconvulsive therapy (“ECT”) with a device manufactured by our client. Plaintiffs specifically argued that the warnings provided by the manufacturer were inadequate.

We argued in the motion, among other things, that creating a triable issue of fact regarding whether the manufacturer’s warnings were inadequate is insufficient to survive summary judgment; a plaintiff must also establish that the purported inadequate warnings actually caused their injuries. For a number of reasons, causation could not be established; however, the dispositive fact for the summary judgment motion was that Plaintiffs failed to create a triable issue of fact as to whether their prescribing ECT psychiatrists would have changed their decision to prescribe ECT had they been provided additional warnings from the manufacturer. Motus v. Pfizer, Inc., 196 F. Supp. 2d 984, 995-96 (C.D. Cal. 2001), aff’d, 358 F.3d 659 (9th Cir. 2004).

California law follows the learned intermediary doctrine. As applied to a manufacturer of a medical device utilized by a doctor in a hospital setting, the manufacturer has a duty to warn physicians, not patients directly. Accordingly, if a physician either ignores, disregards, or confirms that information provided by the manufacturer would not alter their decision to prescribe treatment with that specific device, a plaintiff cannot establish that a manufacturer’s purported inadequate warnings caused their injuries.

Ultimately, the Court agreed with our argument that the learned intermediary doctrine applied to the facts of this case and further that plaintiffs failed to create a triable issue with respect to whether their prescribing psychiatrists would have changed their decision about treatment if they were provided additional warnings. Notice of appeal has been filed. - (Poole Shaffery & Koegle, LLP)