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Guadamud v. Dentsply Int'l - 20 F. Supp. 2d 433 (E.D.N.Y. 1998)

Rule:

There is a difference between lawful activities regulated by statute, wherein the violation of the statute is merely evidence of negligence, from activities which are entirely prohibited by law, the commission of which can bar recovery for injuries sustained during the illegal activity. 

Facts:

The individual was born in Ecuador where she held a license to practice dentistry. Although she never received a license to practice dentistry in the United States, she set up her own practice. While she was engaged in the practice of dentistry, she used defendants' product to prepare teeth for drilling and cavity repair. The product was only dispensed to licensed dentists, for use by licensed dentists, and was to be used with protective eyewear and clothing. The individual was severely injured when a plastic syringe filled with phosphoric acid gel used to condition teeth exploded in her hands. She then filed a product liability action against the manufacturer and supplier of the product. It was undisputed that the individual did not use the protective clothing. The manufacturer and supplier filed motions for summary judgment.

Issue:

Should the court grant the motions for summary judgment?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The court found that under state law the individual could not recover in tort for injuries that she sustained while voluntarily engaging in an illegal act because it was a serious violation of the law, and her injuries were a direct result of the violation. There was a difference between lawful activities regulated by statute, wherein the violation of the statute is merely evidence of negligence, from activities which were entirely prohibited by law, the commission of which could bar recovery for injuries sustained during the illegal activity. Because she was unlicensed, the court stated that she should never have been using the product, and it found that her injury was a direct result of her using the product to treat patients, an activity that was expressly prohibited by state law. Thus, the court found that defendants were entitled to summary judgment.

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