Appellate Court Affirms Defense Verdict and Judgment for Shook Client in Surgical Medical Device Trial

Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed a verdict and judgment for medical device manufacturer Stryker Corporation in the case Cavanaugh v. Stryker Corporation and, in the process, established important precedent for medical device manufacturers. The court rejected all five appellate issues raised by the plaintiff, explaining its affirmance on two. The court held that the trial judge correctly refused to instruct the jury on the plaintiff’s design defect claim using the consumer expectations test because the test is inappropriate for the complex medical device at issue. The court also held that no harmful error occurred in the trial judge’s decision to give the parties each an additional preemptory challenge after a juror was excused during trial because the case was decided by six qualified and impartial jurors, which is all the law requires.
“This is a very significant appellate decision in Florida products liability law, particularly for medical device manufacturers,” stated Shook Partner and Board Certified Appellate Specialist Dan Rogers, who argued the appellate case. “It explains that the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Aubin v. Union Carbide Corp., holding that design defects should be judged using the consumer-expectations test, does not apply to these types of complex medical devices.” 

The appeal arose from a 2018 trial in Port St. Lucie, Florida, in which counsel from Shook obtained a significant defense verdict for Stryker in litigation involving its Neptune 2 Ultra Waste Management System. In that trial, the jury found in favor of Stryker on all counts, rejecting claims that the Neptune 2 surgical waste system supposedly had a design defect and that Stryker was supposedly negligent and did not provide adequate warnings. 

Along with Shook Managing Partner Dan Rogers, Shook Partners Hildy Sastre, William Geraghty and Jennifer McLoone, and Associates Vanessa Offutt and Michael Polatsek worked on the appellate case for Stryker.

The American Lawyer noted Rogers and this appellate victory in “Come Get Your Latest Litigator of the Week Runners-Up and Shout Outs,” October 9, 2020. The Daily Business Review also reported on this case in “Improper Mid-Trial Juror Switch in Products Liability Trial Was Harmless, South Florida Court Rules,” October 9, 2020. Law360 reported on it in “Stryker’s Trial Win Over Surgery Death Upheld On Appeal,” October 8, 2020, and Drug & Device Law wrote about the case in “Florida Appellate Court Rejects Consumer Expectations Test for Design Defect Claims in Medical Device Cases,” October 15, 2020.

The trial case is Cavanaugh v. Stryker Corporation, No. 2013CA001800 (Fla. 19th Cir. Ct., St. Lucie Cty., 2018). The appeal case is Cavanaugh v. Stryker Corporation, No. 4D19-253 (ME) (Fla. 4th Dist. Ct. of Appeal, St. Lucie Cty., October 7, 2020).