7th Circuit affirms ruling for maker in IUD liability case

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against a woman suing a company for product liability after a piece of her implanted birth control device broke during its removal and was left inside her uterus.

Cheryl Dalton sued Teva North America, the manufacturer of the ParaGard Intrauterine Device (IUD), on three product liability claims — strict liability, strict product liability failure to warn and manufacturer’s defect.

The IUD was only partially removed by Dalton’s doctor, as a piece had broken off either before or during removal. Dalton’s doctor advised her that removing the remaining portion of the IUD would require a hysterectomy.

Dalton sued Teva in federal court and was given until November 18 by the district court to disclose expert witnesses and evidence, but she did not do so. She argued that the causation issue was so straightforward that expert testimony was unnecessary.

Dalton contended that “proximate cause is obvious” because it involves “uncomplicated facts that lead to only on[e] conclusion.” In Dalton’s view, a juror could look at a broken IUD and plainly see that some error of Teva’s caused the break. But the district court held that her speculation was insufficient to sustain a products liability action under the Indiana law.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the IUD maker Monday in Cheryl Dalton v. Teva North America, et al. 17-1990.

“Maybe the IUD was damaged after coming into the possession of the physician, maybe human error resulted in damage or some other problem during implantation or removal, or maybe there’s another explanation entirely,” Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett wrote.

Dalton provided no explanation for how a lay juror faced with a broken IUD could identify the cause of the break, Barrett wrote. The panel noted the Indiana Products Liability Act insists upon expert testimony when an issue “is not within the understanding of a lay person.”

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