How Is Product Liability Different From Medical Malpractice?

Personal injury law provides different theories of liability for different types of injuries. For example, when a consumer is injured by a defective product, he or she can file a product liability suit against the manufacturer. On the other hand, when a patient is injured as a result of poor medical care, the patient can file a medical malpractice suit against the doctor or medical professional responsible. Below, you’ll find explanations of both product liability and medical malpractice.

What Is Product Liability?

When consumers purchase a product, they generally expect it to be safe and defect-free. Under product liability law, manufacturers and sellers may be held liable for any injuries that result from a defective product. There are three types of product defects:

  • Design defect: the product was designed in a way that makes it dangerous for consumers.
  • Warning defect: the manufacturer failed to warn consumers about the dangers involved with a product.
  • Manufacturing defect: an error during the manufacturing process produced a dangerous defect.

Most states have laws holding manufacturers and sellers strictly liable for product defects. As a result, manufacturers can be held liable for injured caused by a defective product, regardless of whether they acted negligently. In addition to strict liability, manufacturers may be held liable for negligence or breach of warranty.

The recent lawsuits involving Bayer’s Yaz and Yasmin birth control pills have typically been based on product liability. Users of the drugs have reported experiencing a number of serious complications, including stroke, heart attack, blood clots, pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis, gallbladder injury, and even death. In their lawsuits, the injured users claim that Yaz and Yasmin were not only defectively designed but also carried inadequate warnings about possible complications.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

While a product liability lawsuit is brought against the maker or seller of a defective product, a medical malpractice suit is filed against a doctor or medical professional who provided inadequate services. Medical malpractice lawsuits are generally based on the theory of negligence. In order for the plaintiff to prevail, she typically must show the following:

  • The healthcare provider had a duty to provide the plaintiff with a professional standard of medical care. For example, there was a doctor-patient relationship.
  • The healthcare provider failed to exercise a professional standard of medical care.
  • The plaintiff’s injuries were caused by her healthcare provider’s breach.
  • The plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the injuries.

Unlike product liability law, there is no strict liability for medical malpractice. Consequently, it is more difficult to prove medical malpractice. In addition, there are usually different statues of limitations for product liability and medical malpractice claims. Finally, in many states, noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering are capped in medical malpractice claims.

Most of the recent lawsuits involving the oral contraceptives Yaz and Yasmin have not alleged medical malpractice against the women’s healthcare providers. However, an injured patient may have a medical malpractice claim if her healthcare provider failed to tell her about the risks associated with a birth control pill or negligently prescribed the pills. An example of this would be a healthcare provider prescribing Yaz to a woman who suffers from uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure), despite the warnings on the birth control’s label.