Latex Allergy Litigation Claims
Natural Rubber Latex
Natural rubber latex is used to make surgical and examination gloves, adhesive bandages, intravenous catheters and anesthesia equipment. Some users of latex products have developed sensitivities or allergies to latex. U.S. government officials estimate that almost one million health care workers have developed an allergic reaction to latex. In 1997, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) adopted a rule requiring manufacturers to place cautionary statements on products that come in contact with human skin and contain rubber latex.
FDA and OSHA Warnings
Hypoallergenic latex gloves seem to reduce the frequency of contact dermatitis (a skin condition caused by contact between skin and a specific substance–in this case latex). However, hypoallergenic latex products can still cause serious reactions in some users. In 1998, the FDA adopted a regulation prohibiting use of the label “hypoallergenic” in connection with latex gloves. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has also warned about the dangers of prolonged exposure to latex.
Prolonged Exposure to Latex Leads to Illness
Continued exposure of the skin to latex can lead to severe, ongoing skin lesions and can eventually cause serious lung and heart-related illnesses. Individuals affected by latex have filed workers’ compensation claims. Some health care workers and medical professionals have filed lawsuits seeking damages for health-related injuries caused by exposure to latex.
Recovery for Latex Allergy in Recent Lawsuits
A registered nurse in Nebraska was awarded total disability benefits after a judge found her to be totally disabled psychologically due to latex allergy. The nurse experienced multiple physical symptoms, such as hives, fatigue, and shortness of breath, as well as psychological symptoms. A Wisconsin hospital radiology technician received a $1 million jury award after she developed a severe latex allergy from prolonged use of latex gloves. The lawsuit alleged that manufacturers knew prolonged exposure to latex could cause persistent skin irritation and lead to life-threatening illnesses.
Successful latex litigation requires proof of causation. In order to recover in a products liability case, the plaintiff must show that the defective or unreasonably dangerous product was the proximate cause of his or her injury. In other words, there has to be a direct connection between use of the product and the injury. Expert testimony is generally required to establish a causal relationship between the use of latex products and the resulting physical symptoms and/or psychological disorder.
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