Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Supreme Court Embraces Medical Device Preemption

The Supreme Court today decided Riegel v. Medtronic, an important case concerning federal preemption of state law product liability claims.  Justice Scalia wrote for the 8-1 majority in favor of preemption, reasoning that experts at the FDA are better positioned than jurors to evaluate the risks and benefits of medical devices.  Justice Ginsburg dissented.  Here's a copy of the opinion on Findlaw.  And here's an excerpt from David Stout's story in the New York Times, Justices Make It Tougher to Sue Medical Device Makers:

In a case with huge implications for the health care-technology industry, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that the manufacturer of a federally approved medical device cannot be sued under state law if the device causes an injury.

The 8-to-1 ruling in favor of Medtronic, the Minneapolis-based maker of cardiovascular devices, made it much more difficult for patients and their families to sue makers of medical devices that have been granted federal approval. ...

The Supreme Court upheld the lower federal courts on Wednesday, with Justice Antonin Scalia writing for the majority that Medtronic and other manufacturers were protected under the Medical Device Amendments of 1976, which in its section on pre-emption bars states from imposing on medical devices “any requirement which is different from, or in addition to, any requirement applicable under this chapter.”

But the justices’ ruling was hardly the last word on when F.D.A. approval bars patients from suing. They are already considering at least three cases involving drugs and drug-labeling.

HME

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