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Defective Products By Design

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Yakima, WAKeith Allison broke his hip and was fitted with a bipolar prosthesis - designed for treating fractures. Trouble was, it took months of pain to discover that the prosthesis was a defective product. Keith suffered months of personal injury and another surgery from a badly designed and therefore defective, prosthesis.

defective hip replacement"About three years ago, I stepped out of the cab of a semi-truck and missed a step, hit the ground and bust my hip," says Keith Allison. "The neck of my femur that goes to the ball of my pelvis was completely shattered, so I was fitted with a bipolar prosthesis but right after surgery, I sensed that something was wrong. I tried to make it work but after a few months, I was having so much pain in my pelvis that I went to another surgeon in Seattle. This doctor knew what the problem was right away: my right leg was longer than the left leg - no wonder I was having so much pain.

I had surgery within a week and he replaced this bipolar prosthesis with a conventional prosthesis.

The bipolar one has a titanium cup that seats in the original pelvis socket. But the conventional one has its own socket that is attached to the pelvis with screws. When I woke up from the second surgery, Dr. Lanzer came in to see me and handed me the prosthesis that he took out. 'Here is your problem - that bipolar had been locking up and there's a piece that is supposed to rotate in the titanium cup and part of that had five or six cracks in it,' he said. As well, my doctor said it had ground out about three percent of the bone area in my pelvis.

I could see the fractures in the plastic that rotated around the titanium cup. One day I was just playing with it and it came apart in my hands - I'm really glad it didn't happen when it was in my hip.

When I found out it was a defective product, I was irritated, to say the least. This thing is worthless and I am sure other people have experienced the same thing. I have no idea what it costs, but it certainly isn't cheap. And neither is it cheap to keep having the surgery done, again and again. Before this happened, I was very active and now I have to use a walking stick to get around."

On its website, the makers of the Bipolar head prosthesis state that it "has been designed to meet the most stringent demands for treating fractures of the neck of the femur." It goes on to say that its "simple use also makes its application safe and reliable."

To allege that a product is "defective" means that the product was unreasonably dangerous. A product can be unreasonably dangerous for various reasons. For example, the design of the product could be defective, which means that the entire line of products would be unreasonably dangerous. Generally, (although it varies from state to state), to determine whether the product is unreasonably dangerous, a balancing test determines the utility of the product against danger of injury. In most situations, the plaintiff offers a reasonable alternative design that the manufacturer could have used, which would have prevented the injury and which would not have substantially diminished the product's effectiveness.

A manufacturing defect is another category of products liability. This means that the particular product was mis-manufactured and that in its condition, it was unreasonably dangerous. The plaintiff must show that the product was in its defective condition when it left the manufacturer's possession and that it was unaltered at the time it caused the injury. In other words, the consumer must prove that the defect was caused by the manufacturer.

In Keith Allison's case, the conventional prosthesis would be a proposed, reasonable alternative and would have eliminated personal injury after his surgery, should the first prosthesis be deemed defective.


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