In a recent decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has vacated a summary judgment in favor of Biomet Inc. and Zimmer, Inc. (collectively, “Biomet”) in a case brought by plaintiff Andrew Bruno under the Louisiana Products Liability Act (“LPLA”). The case has been remanded for further proceedings.
Bruno had sued Biomet following complications from a shoulder surgery in which a prosthetic device manufactured by Biomet was implanted. Over the course of 14 months post-operation, Bruno repeatedly returned to the hospital with complications. His doctor believed these complications were caused by a superficial skin-related infection, possibly a suture reaction. However, in November 2018, due to an “obvious… deep infection” affecting the joint and the device, Bruno elected to have the device removed.
In September 2019, Biomet sent a letter to hospitals advising that certain medical devices, including the kind implanted in Bruno, were part of a Field Safety Corrective Action because “these devices were subject to cleaning processes that could result in elevated levels of bacterial endotoxin and residual debris remaining on the devices.” Bruno’s hospital notified him about Biomet’s letter that same month but advised him that “[t]he devices used during [his] procedure were sterilized and therefore cannot cause infection.”
Bruno brought this products liability suit against Biomet on September 25, 2020, seeking damages under the LPLA. Biomet moved for summary judgment, arguing that Bruno’s claims were prescribed and, alternatively, that Bruno failed to provide sufficient evidence that the device was unreasonably dangerous. The district court granted summary judgment, finding Bruno’s claims were prescribed. Bruno timely appealed.
The Court of Appeals found that the ultimate question of prescription is best left for the jury to determine. The Court vacated the district court’s summary judgment order and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion, including any additional discovery the district court may order.
The Court of Appeals declined to address in the first instance whether Bruno produced sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment on one or more of his LPLA claims, leaving the merits of Bruno’s claims to the district court.