Florida Court on Strict Liability and the Distribution Chain in Defective Products Cases - Barnes v. Bayside Orthopaedics

April 5, 2012

One of the many ways that an experienced personal injury attorney can assist a person injured by a defective product is by determining the person or entity responsible for the injury. In Barnes v. Bayside Orthopaedics, Inc., the District Court for the Middle District of Florida explains that liability in a Florida defective products case extends not only to the entity that made the product, but also to others in the distribution chain.

321574_forklift.jpgPlaintiffs, Florida residents Janine Barnes and Julie Fournier, sued Bayside Orthopaedics, Inc. (Bayside) in a products liability action filed in St. Petersburg, where Bayside's principal place of business is located. Plaintiffs claim that Bayside supplied a defective prosthetic implant device used in each of their hip replacement surgeries. The Court noted that similar allegations are currently the subject of several suits which have been consolidated by a Multi-District Litigation court.

Seven months after filing the complaint, Plaintiffs added a number of Defendants to the action, all of which reside or have their principal place of business outside of Florida. These defendants removed the action to federal court based on diversity of citizenship (a federal court has jurisdiction over cases in which none of the plaintiffs are from the same state as any of the defendants). In opposing Plaintiffs' request that the case be remanded back to the state court, Bayside argued that it was fraudulently added as a defendant in this case, solely to keep the action out of federal court.

In granting Plaintiffs' remand request, the District Court found that Bayside was properly named as a defendant in the suit. Plaintiffs alleged a strict liability claim against Bayside, which under Florida law incurs liability for injuries caused by the product, regardless of whether the particular defendant was actually negligent. In a Florida defective products case, the court noted, strict liability extends to all parties in the distribution chain, including manufacturers, marketers and sellers. Quoting the Florida Supreme Court's 1995 decision in Porter v. Rosenberg, M.D., FACS, the court explained the basis for this liability as such:

Retailers like manufacturers are engaged in the business of distributing goods to the public. They are an integral part of the overall producing and marketing enterprise that should bear the cost of injuries resulting from defective products.
Thus, according to the court, both DePuy - the maker of the hip implant device - and Bayside, its seller, can be held liable under Florida's strict liability theory.

Noting that Bayside earned commissions and royalties from DePuy for marketing and selling the device, the court held that "[e]ntities that play an active role in promoting a particular product within the chain of distribution to the general public are strictly liable for any defect in the product." Since Bayside marketed an promoted the device, it was part of the distribution chain and therefore subject to suit.

If you were injured by a defective product, an experienced products liability attorney is crucial to the success of you claim. The lawyers at Anidjar & Levine stand ready to help those injured by unsafe products. If you or somebody you love was recently injured by an unsafe product, call Anidjar & Levine's Fort Lauderdale offices at (800) 747-3733 offices for a free consultation.

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