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Jury Punishes Advance Bionics with $7.25 Million Verdict for Selling Defective Cochlear Implants

The parents of 11-year-old Breanna Sadler of Vine Grove, Ky., sued the manufacturer of their daughter’s cochlear implants, Advance Bionics of Valencia, Calif., accusing the company of continuing to sell the device after executives knew it was defective. On Tuesday a U.S. District Court jury in Louisville agreed, awarding Breanna, now 11, and her parents $7.25 million in damages. According to Courier-Journal, a Gannett Company:

Born deaf, Breanna Sadler of Vine Grove, Ky., had a cochlear ear device implanted in her head in 2006, when she was 4 years old. Four years later, an electrical short from the device shocked her so violently that she was thrown to the ground, vomiting and convulsing. After she was shocked two more times, the device had to be removed from her skull and replaced with a competitor’s model in an open-head surgery that took more than seven hours.

An ambulance had to be called because she screamed that her face was on fire and felt like it was melting. The device was disconnected and Breanna had to wait six weeks in total deafness until an eight-hour surgery could be performed to remove the implant and install a working version made by a competitor, said Ronald E. Johnson, another lawyer for the Sadlers. According to Courier-Journal, the number of additional victims affected is staggering:

About 4,000 of the devices have been implanted worldwide, and about 1,000 have failed, according to lead plaintiff’s counsel Tim Edwards, who estimated that dozens of patients in the Louisville area are “walking around with the devices in their head that have failed or will fail.”

Cheryl Garma, a spokeswoman for Advance Bionics, said the company “respects the jury but disagrees with its verdict, particularly with respect to punitive damages,” and is considering an appeal. (Courier-Journal) She said the company denies that executives took any action designed to enhance their payments. While Advance Bionics argued that there were many reasons for why the implants we faulty, the jury ultimately favored the Sadlers.  Moreover, many more complaints are being made about the company’s implants. The Sadler’s case will be the first in about 40 lawsuits that will go to trial and the jury has come to the decision to have the company pay $6.25 million in damages to the 11-year-old girl for, “recklessly disregarding patient safety”.

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