As the digital health industry continues to expand at an exponential rate, and an increasing number of Americans are using health-related smartphone apps, who is going to be held responsible for the injuries caused by these apps? What does California’s product liability law have to say about health apps?
Pharmaceutical companies are cashing in on health apps and other digital health products big time. It is no longer unthinkable that you can encounter pharmaceutical and medical devices that are offered to improve, monitor, and track our health wirelessly. Health apps have now become one of the most competitive sectors of the software industry, while wireless and wearable components are being developed to produce “smart” therapeutics.
The digital health industry booming, and product liability laws lagging behind
Yes, it is 2018, and digital therapeutics are now a part of many Americans’ lives, with several billions of dollars in investment flowing into the digital health industry each year. And while the digital health industry is booming, it seems that our federal and state product liability laws are lagging behind.
Today, we invited our Los Angeles product liability attorney from the Law Offices of Howard Kornberg to discuss this issue. After all, we can no longer ignore the ever-increasing number of lawsuits from people who have been injured because of health apps.
Outdated product liability laws regarding health apps
Believe it or not, digital health products are now becoming an integral element of the modern healthcare system. The more people are using these digital health products, the more patients are being exposed to the risk of injury or even death, which translates into an increased number of product liability lawsuits and a budding debate on heightened regulatory scrutiny.
“Currently, product liability laws encompass the standards and rules to hold product manufacturers liable for injuries caused by their ‘physical’ products, but if you look at the health apps through the prism of the existing law, everything becomes very vague and blurred even for skilled lawyers,” says our experienced defective product attorney.
It is complicated, and, in some cases, even impossible, to apply the existing product liability laws to digital health products, and there are several reasons why. First of all, who should be held liable for the injuries caused by health apps?
Who can be held liable for injuries caused by health apps?
For example, let’s say there is a smartphone app that allows the patient to connect to a medical device to wirelessly control its functions. If that patient is injured while using the app and device, who will be held responsible for his injuries? The app developer? The manufacturer of the medical device? The smartphone manufacturer? The medical professional who recommended using the app and/or medical device? Or all of the above?
As you can imagine, this uncertainty would prompt injured patients to file product liability lawsuits against all of the identifiable parties involved, and it would be up to the juries and judges to decide which of the parties should be held liable if any. But here is another problem: juries and judges would have to handle lawsuits based on outdated laws.
Let’s face it, the existing laws are lagging behind technology, which is why litigating some cases could take years. Lawmakers in California and all across the U.S. should consider updating the existing law to spell out how the legal theories of strict liability, negligence, and breach of an express or implied warranty can apply to digital health products.
If you believe that you have been injured because of a software program or smartphone app, do not hesitate to consult with our Los Angeles product liability attorney. Let’s discuss your particular case and find the most appropriate legal strategy. Contact the Law Offices of Howard Kornberg to get a free consultation. Call 310-997-0904 or complete this contact form.