Inexact science Area attorney defends medical device makers

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

Anthony Long jokes that his childhood as the youngest of four boys led to his legal career.

"I experienced injustice at a young age," he says with a smile. "Looking back, it was a natural transition to a career defending the rights of my clients. I find it very satisfying being able to help others and resolve legal disputes. For better or worse, I treat my clients' problems as if they were my own."

An attorney with Howard & Howard in Royal Oak, Long's practice includes commercial litigation, but his niche is product liability.

"I like having some diversity in my law practice, as it keeps me sharp," he says. "I also like being in the courtroom I enjoy defending my clients and fighting for their rights."

A significant percentage of his practice involves defending medical device manufacturers against personal injury claims.

"Like prescription drugs, medical devices can both help patients, if used correctly, or injure patients if used incorrectly," he explains. "Advancements in medicine and prescription medical devices have saved or improved the quality of countless lives. However there are risks associated with any medical procedure sometimes patients have to accept the risks in order to realize the benefits."

According to Long, law students and rookie lawyers would do well to consider this specialty.

"The practice of medicine is not an exact science. There will always be medical devices that both help and, sometimes, unfortunately hurt patients. It's a growing field for new lawyers."

Those new lawyers will likely find the sort of challenging cases that intrigue Long. In one, he represented a manufacturer of a cochlear implant medical device that has allowed many children who were born without hearing the ability to hear for the first time. Unfortunately, one of the two devices surgically implanted in a child did not work properly and needed replacing; the parents sued, seeking damages.

"After meeting with the parents and explaining that the product my client developed was the only product on the market that would allow their child the chance to hear, attend normal school and have a normal life, we were able to amicably resolve the lawsuit," he says. "The child received a new implant free of charge and today has normal hearing in both ears thanks to the product."

In another case, Long represented the manufacturer of a valve used to manage uncontrollable pressure in the eye due to glaucoma and other diseases that can cause blindness. Surgically implanted at birth in the eye of a baby with a hereditary disease, the glaucoma valve controlled the pressure and saved the child's eyesight. As anticipated, she had another valve implanted eight years later due to her growth, but unfortunately the new device did not function properly and needed replacing. The parents sued, seeking damages. As in the cochlear implant case, Long educated the parents that his client had developed one of the few products on the market that had saved their child's eyesight and had given her the ability to have a normal life and the lawsuit was amicably resolved.

"The child received a new implant and today she has normal eyesight and controlled eye pressure thanks to this amazing product," he says.

In a non-medical case that revolved around the computer scare of the Millennium Bug, a.k.a. Y2K, in the late 1990s, Long represented an insurance carrier against a claim for hundreds of millions of dollars of expenses incurred by a national retailer associated with updating their computer systems worldwide in advance of the presumed Y2K threat.

"The retailer claimed coverage under a little known policy endorsement stemming back to the colonial days," Long says.

After two years of litigation and depositions, the retailer ultimately dismissed its lawsuit.

A native of Southfield, Long knew in high school he was destined for law, and thought a business background would be beneficial no matter what area of the law he ended up practicing. He chose Albion College for its excellent economics and management program.

"It's rather ironic that I ended up joining Howard & Howard, whose motto is 'Law for Business,'" he says.

He then chose Detroit College of Law (now Michigan State University College of Law), for its smaller, more intimate atmosphere.

"Also, many of my professors actually practiced law at the same time they were teaching at the school," he says. "They were very helpful, well beyond the classroom."

Away from the courtroom, Long enjoys downhill skiing, golf, and traveling with Kim, his wife of 19 years, and sons Evan, 11, and Tyler, 7. Rounding out the family is Maggie, a one-year-old Chocolate Labradoodle.

The Longs recently completed construction of their dream house in Birmingham, after living in the community for more than 18 years. "I'm the first person in my family to build their own home, which is a tribute to my parent's goal of immigrating over 50 years ago to the United States from England hoping for better opportunities for their family," he says. His parents emigrated as newlyweds in 1957, packing their belongings into three trunks and steaming across "the pond" on the Queen Elizabeth into New York Harbor. After initially living in Canada, the couple moved to Detroit. "Like many, they were in search of better opportunities for themselves and their future family," Long says. "Adding to the stress of immigrating to two new countries, my father had to re-qualify his engineering degree in both Canada and Michigan."

Long, who has volunteered as a manager/coach in the Play 4 Fun, Coach Genevieve and YMCA sports leagues, volunteers in the Birmingham Little League, where he has managed and coached both of his son's baseball teams the last three years. "In 2013, my son Evan's team won the championship in their division on Father's Day," he says.

Published: Wed, Sep 10, 2014

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