$7.25 Million Award for Defective Cochlear Implant

A Louisville, Kentucky jury awarded an eleven-year-old girl and her family $7.25 million dollars in compensatory and punitive damages as the result of a defective cochlear ear device.

Born deaf, the little girl had a cochlear ear device implanted in her head when she was four years old. Four years later, an electrical short from the device shocked her horrifically; she was thrown to the ground, vomiting and convulsing.

Before the device was removed and replaced 13 months later, she was shocked two more times. The open-head surgery to remove the device from her skull took more than seven hours.

The plaintiffs alleged that the device manufactured by Advance Bionics was harmful and non-compliant with FDA regulations. They further alleged that Advanced Bionics knew that the device was leaking and defective, but that they delayed disclosing the defect in order to sell more devices and get more money when the company was sold. Approximately 4,000 of these devices have been implanted worldwide, with about 1,000 having failed to date.

The verdict of over $7 million against Advance Bionics included $996,236.64 in compensatory damages and $6,250,000 in punitive damages.  What do punitive damages mean?  It means the jury think something very bad happened that could have been avoided with more caring.

I really tried not to buy into these cases. A priest who taught me in college has one to this day. It has really added to the quality of his life.  But for far too many people – as this punitive damage award tells us – this product dramatically failed and this company failed its patients. Too many companies out there putting profits before safety.

Cochlear Implant Lawsuits

Ultimately, cochlear implants are truly live changing.  But thing can and do go wrong which is particularly awful when there is so much hope for the real change this product can bring. Lawsuits involving cochlear implants typically revolve around claims of product liability, medical malpractice, or negligence. Here are some common themes in litigation involving cochlear implants:

  1. Device Malfunction or Defects: Some cochlear implant lawsuits allege, like the case summarized above, that the cochlear implant device itself was defective, malfunctioned, or failed prematurely, leading to serious health issues or worsening of hearing loss. These defects often involve issues with the implant’s electrodes, wires, or other components.
  2. Surgical Errors: Cochlear implant surgeries are complex procedures, and errors made during the surgical implantation process can lead to complications. Patients may file a medical malpractice lawsuit if they believe the surgeon’s mistake during (or even after) the procedure caused injury or further hearing loss.
  3. Inadequate Warning and Informed Consent: Patients have the right to be informed about the risks associated with cochlear implants before undergoing the procedure. You do not see a lot of these but lawsuits may arise if patients claim they were not adequately informed about potential risks and side effects before consenting to the surgery.
  4. Post-Operative Complications: Cochlear implant surgery can result in various post-operative complications, such as infections, damage to the facial nerve, or implant extrusion. Doctors have to remain diligent, as we mentioned above, even after the procedure.
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