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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Ind. Decisions - One today from the Supreme Court

In Jim and Jill Kovach v. Caligor Midwest, et al, a 9-page, 5-0 opinion, Judge Boehm writes:

The plaintiffs allege their son was given a fatal overdose of pain medication by a nurse after a surgical procedure. The plaintiffs sued the manufacturers and distributors of the medicine cup used to administer the medication, alleging defects in design of the cup and failure to warn that the cup was not suitable for precision measurement. We affirm summary judgment in favor of these defendants because these claimed defects did not cause the death. The undisputed facts establish that if an overdose caused the death it was due to a quantity of drug essentially double the prescribed amount. None of the claimed defects in the cup would have caused an overdose of that magnitude. * * *

The Kovachs assert four claims against the Cup Defendants, described as strict products liability and negligent products liability under the Indiana Product Liability Act (“PLA”), and breach of implied warranty of merchantability and breach of implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose under the Uniform Commercial Code (“UCC”). The Court of Appeals concluded that the UCC and PLA provide “alternative remedies,” and it therefore entertained all four of the Kovachs’ claims as separate theories. * * * We find the causation issue in this case dispositive as to all causes of action. We therefore do not resolve the relationship between the PLA and the UCC today, as that issue is directly raised only by amici, and presented obliquely, if at all, by the parties. We also do not address several collateral issues that the parties have raised in this appeal. * * *

The plaintiffs argue that if the medicine cup had been better suited as a precision measuring device or had contained a warning that it was not suitable for precision measurement, Matthew would not have received an overdose. We agree with Chief Judge Baker that the undisputed facts establish that there is no such causal connection. * * *

Here, the Kovachs claim that the medicine cup should have borne a warning that it was not designed for precision measurement. If we apply the read-and-heed presumption, then we must assume the nurse would have read such a warning and chosen a precision applicator to administrate the codeine. But as explained above, Matthew’s overdose was not the result of imprecise measurement. If the overdose was the cause of death, it was due to mistaken dispensation of a full cup, a 30-mL double dosage, by a nurse who knew that a half cup, 15 mL, was the proper dosage. Matthew’s death was not factually caused by the danger that a warning against use of the cup for precision measurement would have addressed, and the accident would not have been avoided if any such warning had been given.

Conclusion: For the foregoing reasons, the Cup Defendants have established that Matthew’s death was not caused by the alleged defects in their product. The judgment of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of the Cup Defendants is affirmed.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 8, 2009 11:48 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions