9th Circuit Revives Medtronic, Inc. Pain Pump Suit

A man who says he was paralyzed by a Medtronic Inc pain pump can pursue a state-law claim against the company, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a unanimous en banc decision, revived a lawsuit against Medtronic, overturning a lower court ruling that had found that federal law blocked the claims. The Food and Drug Administration approved Medtronic's pain pump in 1988. In 2000, the plaintiff, Richard Stengel, had the device surgically implanted into his abdomen to deliver pain relief medication into his spine. By 2005, he was diagnosed with permanent paralysis. Stengel and his wife, Mary, sued Medtronic in 2010 in state court, alleging negligence, breach of warranty and product liability. They later added another legal theory that Medtronic contributed to the injuries by failing to report information to the FDA, in violation of federal law. The Stengels cited a 2007 warning letter that the FDA sent to Medtronic, stating that the company had concealed known risks. The company recalled the product in 2008. A divided three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit in 2012 found that federal law prohibited the Stengels' suit, affirming the district court. But a larger 9th Circuit panel agreed to rehear the case, and on Thursday it ruled that the Stengels' failure-to-warn claim was not pre-empted. Medtronic said in an emailed statement that it was disappointed with the ruling but continued to believe that the plaintiffs' claims were pre-empted and that the company would ultimately prevail. Thomas Cotter, a lawyer for the Stengels, declined to comment on the ruling.

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