There is a time when you do not have to prove that anybody did anything wrong. That is when you are injured by a defective product, whether it is a surgical instrument, an electrical or mechanical device, splint, or an implant. Let us say you ha
d a severe burn from an electric cautery during surgery, or your hip implant broke, or your spouse had a fatal heart attack because of a defective pacemaker. All you have to show is the product or medicine was defective or harmful, and you were injured. You do not have to show there was medical malpractice or dental malpractice.
Years ago, if a manufactured product injured someone, the only person who could bring a lawsuit was the person who had bought the product. If it injured anyone else, there was nothing they could do about it, because the law said they did not have what lawyers call Privity of Contract with the manufacturer. The manufacturer was only responsible to the people who bought its product and did not have any responsibility for other people who might use it and be injured.
In an old Wisconsin case, a mother and her infant were leaving the hospital in a hospital wheelchair. The brakes were defective and allowed the wheelchair to roll into the street, where it was hit by a car. The infant was killed. When the parents sued the company that made the wheelchair and the hospital, the judge dismissed the suit. He said the company had no responsibility to the parents, because it had not sold them the wheelchair. The hospital was not liable, because it had not manufactured the wheelchair and did not know it was defective.
That theory no longer applies to injuries caused by a defective product. Today, if you are injured by a manufactured product or device, and not by someone’s actions, every person who had anything to do with the accident can be sued under what is called the theory of Strict Liability. Lawyers call it the Stream of Commerce, because a manufactured product is like a log put into a fast-running river that crashes into things as it is swept downstream. Anyone who is damaged by it, even a thousand miles downstream, has a claim against the person who put it into the water. Once a defective product is sold
to the public, there is no way of knowing who will use it or where it will end up. So, the law says that everyone who had anything to do with putting it into the Stream of Commerce has a responsibility for whatever damage it does and can be sued by anybody who is injured by it. Under today’s law, the Wisconsin parents would be able to sue the manufacturer, wholesaler, retailer of the wheelchair, and the hospital.