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Anderson v. Somberg

Supreme Court of New Jersey
338 A.2d 1, 423 U.S. 929 (1975)


Henry Anderson (plaintiff) had a back operation at St. James Hospital (defendant). The operation was performed by Dr. Somberg (defendant). Among the tools that the surgeon used during the operation was a pituitary rongeur, manufactured by Lawton Instrument Company (defendant). The hospital had purchased the rongeur from Reinhold-Schumann, Inc. (defendant) four years prior to Anderson’s surgery. The rongeur had been used in many surgeries by about 20 different surgeons. During Anderson’s operation, the tip of the rongeur broke off inside Anderson’s spinal canal. Dr. Somberg tried several times to retrieve the metal fragment but was unsuccessful. The fragment remained in Anderson’s back, requiring Anderson to undergo additional surgeries. Anderson sued the surgeon for malpractice, the hospital for negligence, the rongeur’s manufacturer for strict liability in tort, and the rongeur’s distributor for breach of warranty. The jury found that Anderson had failed to state a cause of action against all four defendants. Anderson appealed. The court of appeals held that the jury should have been instructed that any of the four defendants that failed to prove its non-culpability should be held liable. The defendants appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Pashman, J.)

Dissent (Mountain, J.)

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