Florence and Vincent Vassallo
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
428 Mass. 1; 696 N.E.2d 909
May 5, 1998, Argued
July 16, 1998, Decided
Middlesex. Civil action commenced in the Superior Court
Department on October 1, 1993.
The case was tried before Margot Botsford, J.
Supreme Judicial Court granted an application for direct appellate review.
David R. Venderbush, of California (Harry T. Daniels with him) for the
Fredric L. Ellis (Edward D. Rapacki with him) for the plaintiffs.
Hugh F. Young, Jr., of Virginia, & David R. Geiger, for Associated Industries of
Massachusetts & others, amici curiae, submitted a brief.
Chief Judge Wilkins, and Justices Abrams, Lynch, Greaney, and Marshall.
In this products liability case, the plaintiff Florence Vassallo claimed that the
defendants, Baxter Healthcare Corporation
and Baxter International, Inc., were liable to
her for damages because silicone breast implants, manufactured by a predecessor
company to the defendants (Heyer-Schulte Corporation), which had been implanted in
her, were negligently designed, accompanied by negligent product warnings, and
breached the implied warranty of merchantability, with the consequence that she was
injured. The plaintiff Vincent Vassallo claimed a loss of consortium.
The plaintiffs also
asserted a claim for violation of G. L. c. 93A, §§ 2 (a) and 9.
A jury in the Superior Court heard the negligence and breach of warranty claims,
returned verdicts (in response to special questions) on those claims in favor of the
plaintiffs, and assessed damages. The judge entered a separate memorandum of
decision on the G. L. c. 93A claim in which she found the defendants liable for a
violation of that statute. The judge concluded that the defendants' conduct was not
knowing or wilful, determined that an assessment of additional compensatory damages
would duplicate the damages determined by the jury, and awarded the plaintiffs their
reasonable attorney's fees and costs. The defendants appealed from the judgment, and
we allowed their application for direct appellate review.