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Alabama courts do not allow a recovery based on a product that is and has been working properly. Under Alabama law, a consumer's fear that a product could fail in the future is not, without more, a legal injury sufficient to support his claim.
Garshasb Farsian sued Shiley, Inc., and its parent corporation, Pfizer, Inc. (hereinafter collectively referred to as "Shiley") in an Alabama state court, alleging, among other things, that they had fraudulently induced Farsian to receive a Bjork-Shiley heart valve implant by not revealing to Farsian certain risks and defects. Shiley moved for a summary judgment, contending that because Farsian's valve was working properly, the claim should fail. Farsian, however, maintained that his claim was based on fraud, not product liability. Farsian contended that, in Alabama, claims against manufacturers were not governed by a product liability law that subsumed all other theories of liability. Therefore, he argued that he may recover damages on his fraud claim even if he cannot prove that his valve was not working properly. Although the district court denied Shiley's motion for summary judgment, the court certified, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), that the order involved a controlling question of law as to which there was substantial ground for difference of opinion, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit permitted an interlocutory appeal.
Under the circumstances, may Farsian maintain a fraud claim under Alabama law?
The Court held that regardless of how Farsian pleaded the claim, the claim was in substance a product liability/personal-injury claim, with Farsian seeking damages because of the risk that his heart valve may one day fail. The Court noted that Alabama courts did not allow a recovery based on a product that was and has been working properly. In this case, although the facts as presented by the court of appeals indicated that the heart valve had experienced problems with strut failures, Farsian’s concern that his heart valve, which was presently functioning normally, could later malfunction was not an injury recognized by Alabama law.