Hot Docs: Man sues for injuries to his penis from broken syringe

August 25, 2011

Syringe Personal InjuryGetting a shot is a frightening experience for a lot of people.

Even if you aren’t scared of getting shots, the thought of the needle breaking off during the injection and getting lodged inside of you may still make you at least a little uneasy.

(If that’s the case, you may not want to read any further.)

This lawsuit involves such an incident that occurred on July 2, 2011, but that isn’t even the interesting part.

The needle broke off in the plaintiff’s penis and became stuck therein.

Subsequently, the man had to seek medical attention and undergo surgery to have the needle removed, and the injuries may result in “some permanent disability.”

What was the man, Donald Duffy, Jr., doing making injections into his penis?

He was self-administering medication to treat his erectile dysfunction.

Apparently, you can do it that way; I’m no doctor, but I’m sure there’s got to be a medical reason to do it this way instead of just popping a blue pill.

Anyhow, the suit is against both the syringes’ manufacturer – Becton Dickinson & Company (BD) – and the vendor that distributes them to Duffy – University Compounding Pharmacy, and is based on legal theories of negligence and products liability.

Hot Doc: Duffy v. Becton Dickinson & Co.

Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insight – National Litigation

The two are very similar, except that strict liability applies to the products liability theory.

Nevertheless, the central question on both issues is the same: causation.

On the negligence issue (brought against BD, not University), there’s no question that BD owed a duty to Duffy, as a consumer, to produce safe needles for consumer use.

What we don’t know is whether Duffy’s injuries were due to a defect with the needle, or because of a mistake that Duffy made himself.

While evidence on that subject will come to light as litigation progresses, the complaint gives us a few details that may tilt things in Duffy’s favor.

First, according to the complaint, Duffy has been injecting medication into his penis for over ten years.

With ten years of experience under his belt, anyone would get to be quite skillful at making injections into his penis.

Even if Duffy wasn’t at fault for his injuries, could the defendants escape liability by showing that any defect in the needle wasn’t their fault?

They can on the negligence claim, but strict liability, as the name implies, is another story.

Under California’s version of strict liability, it doesn’t matter if the damage to the needle was caused during its manufacture or during the shipping of the product; both of the defendants are still liable.

So, that brings us back to the issue of whether the injuries were caused by a defective needle or an unsteady hand.

As mentioned above, the complaint seems to suggest (to me, at least) that it’s the former.

It’s nothing specific that the complaint states, but rather the fact that Duffy was willing to even sue over this to begin with.

Think about it: he willingly disclosed to the world that he has erectile dysfunction that he has been treating with medication injected directly into his penis for the past ten years.

Given that, along with the intense scrutiny his very personal injury will be sure to be under during litigation, Duffy must have been sure that it was the needle’s dysfunction, not his own, before taking legal action.

For Duffy’s sake, let’s hope that this gets wrapped up as quickly as possible to spare him any more delicate disclosures.