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Unveiling the Hidden Challenges of Medical Device Warranties: Insights from Dennis Gucciardo

Title: Are There Hidden Defects in Medical Device Warranties? A Conversation with Dennis Gucciardo

In a recent conversation with Dennis C. Gucciardo, a legal expert in the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory context, we gained valuable insight into the often overlooked aspects of medical device warranties. Gucciardo, who counsels medical device manufacturers throughout the product lifecycle, shared important considerations when it comes to creating, reviewing, and implementing warranties for medical devices.

One crucial aspect that is often missed is the potential conflict between a manufacturer’s intentions and applicable regulations. While manufacturers may want to disclaim responsibility for certain risks or pass on certain costs to customers, regulations may supersede these intentions. For example, if a radiation-emitting medical device experiences a defect, manufacturers are required by law to repair, replace, or refund the device at no cost to the customer. To address this, warranty provisions should include a caveat such as “to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law” to minimize the impact of regulatory requirements.

Another area that can be reframed in the medical device setting is the language used to describe defects. Manufacturers commonly refer to “Defects” in their contracts and warranties. However, creative plaintiffs may interpret this language as an admission by the manufacturer that the product is defective. To mitigate this risk, using a less conspicuous term such as “Issue” could help minimize the volume or success of such arguments.

Continued maintenance and support of a product after the warranty expires may seem like good customer service, but it can have unintended consequences. The FDA may view servicing a device after its shelf life or use life as a change to the device’s design, potentially requiring reliability testing to verify the extension. Manufacturers should clearly communicate with their distributors regarding permitted warranty claims and procedures to avoid any regulatory pitfalls.

As medical devices increasingly rely on software, data, and artificial intelligence, there are additional considerations to keep in mind. Warranty language for software often differs from hardware warranties. While hardware warranties typically cover defects in material or workmanship, software warranties often focus on substantial conformance with applicable documentation. However, for applications, calculations, or features critical to safety or efficacy, traditional software warranties may be inadequate. Manufacturers should ensure that their warranties address these specific concerns.

In conclusion, medical device warranties require careful consideration to ensure compliance with regulations and to protect manufacturers from potential legal risks. By understanding the nuances of warranty language and considering the impact of evolving technologies, manufacturers can create effective warranties that provide value to both themselves and their customers.

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