Business Law I (BLAW-2100-01)
25 November 2018
Case Analysis: Hector v. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, 225 Cal.Rptr. 595, 180 Cal.App.3d 493 (Cal. App., 1986)
The facts of this case begin with the events that happen before the case was filed. Plaintiff Frances J Hector received and was implanted with a defective pacemaker manufactured by American Technology, Inc. The pacemaker was implanted by Hector’s medical doctor, Dr. Eugene Kompaniez at Cedars-Sinai. The plaintiff filed complaints on Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on three causes of action which included: “negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty.” The trial court approved the motion; however, the plaintiff requested the first cause of action, negligence, be dismissed. The trial court concluded that the second and third causes of action also be dismissed.
II. Issues of Law
Plaintiff France J Hector claims that the trial court is mistaken for excluding Cedars-Sinai from the strict products liability doctrine. The legal issues at stake in this case are strict liability and breach of warranty. Plaintiff claims Cedars-Sinai Medical Center was legally responsible for the pacemaker that was implanted into him regardless of whether or not there was actual negligence or intent to harm. On the third cause of action, plaintiff claims that Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, a seller of the pacemaker, broke a promise about providing a functional pacemaker.
The defendant pleaded partial summary judgment on the case on the basis of Silverhart v. Mount Zion Hospital in which plaintiff was in surgery when a surgical needle broke and subsequently remained in the plaintiff’s body permanently. The court found the defendant not guilty in terms of strict liability.
In appeal to this, the court recalls Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc. which states that the manufacturer is strictly liable for a product they place on the market knowing that is going to be used without inspection for defects, and that they are responsible for any injury to human beings. The court then adds to this doctrine stating that this doctrine is also applied to the chain of distribution, not just the manufacturer.
The plaintiff seeks to extend this doctrine to his case claiming that the doctrine of strict liability applies to the hospital which furnishes, along with treatment and care, a product that is defective and causes injury to the patient. The plaintiff believes that the hospital is a supplier of the defective product and therefore is liable for any injuries on its patient.
Following this, the court goes over two cases in which strict liability is not applied in the medical field. In Magrine v. Krasnica, the court refused to consider the strict liability doctrine on a dentist who used a drill that broke in the middle of use and injured a patient. The court believes that a medical professional is “selling” their medical expertise on a patient and cannot be held accountable for the defects in the materials they use.
In Carmichael v. Reitz, the strict liability doctrine was not put in use when a doctor prescribed a drug to a patient that produced faulty results. The Court claims that the patient went to the doctor for a disorder and seeked their professional services; the doctor is not at fault for prescribing an ethical drug that is said to cure the disorder that the patient was experiencing. A doctor that is treating a patient is not selling any sort of product to the patient, and neither is the hospital.
A hospital is responsible for the professional services it provides and does not relate to the equipment it uses; however, this does not apply to a hospital’s gift shop which purpose is to sell products, not treat the ill. If the hospital is selling defective products at the gift shop, then it will be held accountable in this act. The Court concludes that the plaintiff cannot rule strict liability on the defendant, which is the hospital.
The court’s conclusion can also be seen in Murphy v. E.R, Squibb & Sons, Inc., which claims that pharmacists which are in the business of selling drugs, cannot be held accountable for the drugs that it dispenses.
Similarly to the medical services stated, blood transfusions deny the application of the strict liability doctrine. In Shepard v. Alexian Brothers Hospital, the Court states that the supplying of blood is a chemical and medical aid that is used in order to accomplish treatment or a cure. The seller, known as the medical professional, is paid to supply the product to the consumer, they are not paid to simply sell the product. A medical professional is simply being paid to administer it in order to achieve a treatment, such as a blood transfusion.
Dr. Howard Allen, Director of the Cedars-Sinai Cardiac Noninvasive Laboratory states that the hospital does not keep pacemakers in stock and that they must order them from the manufacturer. When it is delivered, it is then sterilized and implanted in the patient. The hospital does not sell or recommend different pacemakers to the patient. In terms of treatment provided by the hospital in regards to the pacemaker, the hospital provides pre and post-surgical care, nursing, an operating room, and operating technicians.
Melanie Archibald, Cedars-Sinai Finance Manager for Operating Room Services states that the pacemaker was delivered to Dr. Kompaniez in the operating room by Jack Albrighton on the day that it was implanted. It was ordered directly from American Technology, Inc., and the hospital billed 85 percent of the pacemaker to the patient’s hospital bill.
Edward Prachunas, Director of Finance at Cedars-Sinai Medical, states that rates for medical services are set so that they projected expenditures are paid for by the cumulative charges for the services. He also states that the hospital does not sell or recommend any type of brand of pacemaker to the patient. The patient does not enter a hospital to receive a pacemaker, they receive a diagnosis which may involve the use of a pacemaker.
The plaintiff argues with the court’s ruling of exemption of strict liability. The plaintiff states that the hospitals actions do not lie in the categories of exemption: “blood and blood products, tools of the trade, and essential conduits.” However, the court finds that this argument would acknowledge that hospital sells pacemakers and is in the business of it. The trial court denies this accusation because the hospital is a provider of services, not products.
III. The Court’s Ruling and Holding
In this case, the court ruled that Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is not in the business of selling pacemakers, but is a provider of medical services which included the supplying of the pacemaker which needed to be implanted in the plaintiff. The hospital is not looking to sell products and therefore cannot be held responsible for the defects found in a manufactured pacemaker. Also, the court was not mistaken in granting the defendant the motion for partial summary judgment.
The Court held that the order is reviewable on appeal; however, the court holds that a pharmacy is not strictly liable for defects in medicine that it sells, even though it is a supplier. For this reason, Cedars-Sinai Medical is cannot be liable under a breach of warranty theory which involves a broken promise made by a manufacturer or seller.
IV. The Court’s Ruling on the Case was Correct
The Court’s ruling in this case was correct because a hospital cannot be accountable for an item it does not manufacture. A hospital specializes in the healing of patients and must use many items in order to achieve this. There is no way that the hospital can guarantee that every single type of machinery or item used will function perfectly because the hospital does not manufacture these products, and therefore should also not be held accountable for any defects.
Despite the hospital not manufacturing these products, they are still held accountable for their treatments in patient’s health and should consider the items they use very wisely. Even though the hospital is not responsible for any defects in a product they use, does not mean they can be negligent in the materials they choose to use on their patients. Hospitals are still required to provide informed care to their patients and should be using safe and recommended products on the patient.
The hospital is not in the business of selling pacemakers or making profit off of them, and cannot be held accountable for providing consumers with a defective product.