Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiff, Frances Hector (Plaintiff), claimed that strict product liability was applicable to the Defendant, Cedar-Sinai Medical Ctr. (Defendant) in relation to the implantation of a defective pacemaker.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Hospitals are not subject to strict liability for a defective product provided to a patient during treatment when the hospital is a provider of services rather than a seller of a product.
Issue. Did the trial court err in finding that Defendant was exempt from the application of the strict products liability doctrine?
Held. No. Judgment affirmed.
* The imposition of strict products liability has been expanded from manufacturers to include retailers. However, retailers play an integral part in the production or marketing enterprise, or at least enable the product to get from the manufacturer to the consumer. Plaintiff maintains this appeal on the theory that the hospital is a supplier of pacemakers and this should be subject to the same strict liability standard as other suppliers.
* The difference between those to whom strict liability has been applied and hospitals is that the former are simply conduits in distribution, while the latter provides services as a healer of illnesses. The main function of the hospital is to furnish trained personnel and specialized facilities, while the items used are simply instruments to accomplish the objective of treatment.
* Additionally, policy considerations counsel against imposition of strict products liability in such areas. Unlike manufacturers and retailers, the Defendant does not select the pacemaker and is in a poor position to test it or inquire about its function. Also, increased liability in this area would result in higher costs for health care. Because the hospital is not a seller, it cannot be held strictly liable for injuries to the Plaintiff because of defects in the pacemaker.
This rule is stated in section 402A of the Restatement Second of Torts: (1) One who sells any product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer or to his property is subject to liability for physical harm thereby caused to the ultimate user or consumer, or to his property, if (a) the seller is engaged in the business of selling such a product, and (b) it is expected to and does reach the user or consumer without substantial change in the condition in which it is sold.View Full Point of Law