Monday, November 11, 2013

Vassallo v. Baxter Healthcare Corp. case brief

Vassallo v. Baxter Healthcare Corp. case brief summary
696 N.E.2d 909 (Mass. 1998)

Plaintiffs, injured person and her husband, filed a product liability action against defendant corporations, alleging negligent design, negligent product warnings, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, and violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, §§ 2 (a) and 9, regarding breast implants. The husband claimed a loss of consortium. The Superior Court (Massachusetts) found in favor of the injured person and husband. The corporations appealed.


The injured person had undergone breast implantation surgery with silicone gel breast implants and subsequently suffered from an autoimmune disease.

The trial judge denied the corporations' motions to exclude the testimony of the injured person and her husband's experts. The court found that the trial judge's findings were not clearly erroneous, her legal conclusions were sound, and there was no error in the trial. The causation opinions of two experts were properly admitted in the absence of classical epidemiological studies. Both witnesses possessed the knowledge, skill, and experience to qualify as experts in their fields. Massachusetts was among a minority of states that applied a hindsight analysis to the duty to warn.


  • The court revised the law such that a defendant would not have been held liable under an implied warranty of merchantability for failure to warn or provide instructions about risks that were not reasonably foreseeable at the time of sale or that could not have been discovered by way of reasonable testing prior to marketing the product.


The court affirmed the judgment of the trial court. However, the court changed its product liability law to conform to the clear majority rule regarding what had to be shown to recover in a breach of warranty claim for failure to warn of risks associated with a product.

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