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Courts Apply the law of the State Where the Injury Occurred
Williams v. Gyrus ACMI, Inc.
In Williams v. Gyrus ACMI, Inc., the Plaintiff in a medical products liability action sought the benefit of more favorable Maryland laws over the laws of Virginia. Judge Blake of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, however, held that the laws of Virginia applied to the case; and, therefore, the Court dismissed all causes of action under Maryland law, but not the causes of action available under Virginia law.
Williams arose out of an incident in which a piece of a medical device broke off inside Plaintiff and allegedly caused Plaintiff injuries. On February 8, 2008, Plaintiff underwent a total vaginal hysterectomy and cystoscopy at the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center in Virginia. During the procedure, a portion of the Gyrus Forceps broke off and was unintentionally left in Plaintiff’s body. Following the procedure, Plaintiff relocated to Maryland, and she began to experience lower abdominal pressure and pain, which continued until the object was removed. As a result, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in which she asserted six (6) counts against the product manufacturer: (1) negligence; (2) breach of express warranty; (3) breach of implied warrant; (4) strict liability-design defect; (5) strict liability-manufacturing defect; and (6) strict liability-failure to warn.
Defendant moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s strict liability claims on the grounds that Virginia has not adopted strict liability in tort for products liability claims. Plaintiff countered that Maryland law applies to this action, which does permit strict products liability claims, because Plaintiff returned to Maryland after the procedure and felt pain while in Maryland.
After analyzing whether to apply Maryland or Virginia law, the Court held that Virginia law applies to this case. The Court held that Maryland applies the lex loci delicti rule in tort actions, which means that the substantive law of the state where the wrong occurs governs the case. Where the event giving rise to the tort occurs in more than one state, the Court must apply the law of the state in which the injury occurred.
The Court held that the allegations of the Complaint make it clear that Plaintiff first sustained injury from the product while in Virginia. In a medical device case, when a foreign object is left in a plaintiff’s body, the injury occurs at the time that the object was placed in the body. This is because a plaintiff has a cause of action for removal of the foreign object as soon as it is placed in the body. Therefore, even though Plaintiff did not experience pain until she relocated to Maryland, the injury occurred in Virginia. As such, the Court applied Virginia law and dismissed Plaintiff’s strict liability claims.
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