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Cochlear Implant company ordered to pay $7.25 million in damages to a young girl after its device severely shocked her

Published: 05/09/2013

Last Updated: 10/09/2017

A Louisville U.S. District Court jury found that Advanced Bionics knowingly sold the implants after they were deemed defective.

In 2006, an Advanced Bionics cochlear device was implanted into then-four-year-old Breanna Sadler’s head. Four years later, the device emitted an electrical short and shocked the Vine Grove, Ky. native so violently that she was thrown to the ground, vomiting and convulsing.

After two more similar episodes, the device was removed from her skull and replaced with a competitor’s model.

Breanna’s parents sued Advanced Bionics, now owned by Sonova Holding AG, accusing the company of continuing to sell the cochlear device after executives knew it was defective. On April 16th, the jury agreed and awarded Breanna, now 11, and her parents a total of $7.25 million in damages. The jury also said the company should pay $6.25 million in punitive damages alone for recklessly disregarding patient safety.

This is the first of 40 pending lawsuits of its kind filed nationally.  

In a statement, a representative of Advanced Bionics said the company “respects the jury, but disagrees with its verdict, particularly with respect to punitive damages,” and is considering an appeal.

In court, the company and its legal team blamed the defect on a supplier and argued that Breanna’s injuries were minimal.

In 2008, the company paid a $1.1 million civil penalty to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to settle allegations that it failed to notify the agency that it was using a new supplier for one of the implant’s components, which the FDA said exposed patients to “unnecessary health risks.”

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