Kallal v. CIBA Vision Corp. – Contact Lens Product Liability

The expectation consumers have when they purchase a product is it will work as stated when used as intended. In the legal world, this is called implied warranty of merchantability, and a breach resulting in injury can be grounds for a personal injury lawsuit.

However, plaintiffs in these product liability lawsuits must be able to prove causation.

In the recent case of Kallal v. CIBA Vision Corp., before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, causation was the primary issue that resulted in affirmation of summary judgment for the defense.

Plaintiff here alleged his contact lenses were defective, resulting in injury to his eyes.

The court noted that per statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 30 million people in the U.S. wear contacts, and that 1 out of every 500 contact users annually may suffer infections and other complications as a result. In some cases, this can have serious consequences, up to and including blindness.

This was not the case here, though plaintiff claimed he did suffer losses.

According to court records, plaintiff received a sample pack of contacts manufactured and marketed by defendant from his eye doctor, and the following month, began wearing them regularly. However, after a week he began to experience sharp pains in his eyes. However, he did not immediately stop wearing them. He had problems with other contacts, and decided to try to continue use, but limited the times in which he wore the lenses. He wore them on and off for several months, and even purchased another pack. However, he stopped wearing them altogether a few months later.

Meanwhile, the manufacturer of those contacts discovered many of the contact lenses it had manufactured during that time were defective and did not allow enough oxygen to permeate to the cornea. This resulted in the recall of 11 million contact lenses. This included some of the lots that were distributed to the office of plaintiff’s eye doctor.

Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against manufacturer, alleging breach of implied warranty, strict product liability and negligence resulting in physical pain.

After several procedural setbacks, defendant moved for summary judgment on grounds plaintiff never used the contacts that were subject of the recall. The company provided evidence none of the contacts shipped to that office and later recalled were in the prescription strength of plaintiff. District court granted summary judgment on all counts.

Plaintiff appealed, arguing he should not have been prevented from developing his legal theory through discovery. However, his appeal did not specifically challenge the ruling that pared down his claim prior to summary judgment and thus, the only legal theory he had left was why the company would be liable for his eye pain. The appellate court ruled that in order to prevail, plaintiff would have to prove his licenses were included in the recall, despite strong documentation to the contrary. He countered that burden could be met through circumstantial evidence, but the court rejected this argument and affirmed summary judgment.

It’s worth noting recalls do not absolve a manufacturer of liability. If you have been injured by a product that has been subject to recall, contact an experienced injury lawyer for more information about your options for compensation.

Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:
Kallal v. CIBA Vision Corp., Feb. 24, 2015, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
More Blog Entries:
Sanders v. Erp Operating Ltd. P’ship – Florida Premises Liability Case Weighed, Feb. 26, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Personal Injury Lawyer Blog

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