Parallel Violation Claims

One of our primary goals is to bring you the latest and greatest news in the drug and device litigation world. But sometimes we don’t learn of a case at the time it’s decided. So, then we need to move on to another of our guiding principles – if it’s good for the defense, we talk about it. So, while today we happen to have come upon a case that was decided in 2017, it dovetails with our recent post Taking Out the Laundry With TwIqbal where we talked about plaintiffs’ attempts to bluff their way to a valid parallel violation claim. And that’s exactly what the plaintiff in Rand v. Smith & Nephew, Inc., 2017 WL 8229320 (C.D. Cal. Apr. 5, 2017) tried to do. Plaintiff put together a “laundry list” of allegations that the defendant’s device violated with no hint of what exactly the defendant did that was in violation. In our prior post we commented that “most courts are willing to use TwIqbal to call bull$%@&! on these types of allegations.” Fortunately, Rand can be added to that list.

The device at issue in Rand is a hip resurfacing prosthesis that underwent pre-market approval from the FDA. That’s why we are talking about parallel violation claims. Following a nice Riegel analysis, the court looked at plaintiff’s allegations for each cause of action.

Strict liability: Under California law, this is a claim for a design, manufacturing and warning defect. Because the FDA reviews “device design, manufacturing processes, and device labeling” as part of the PMA, “the MDA preempts state-law claims against these three aspects of PMA-compliant devices.” Id. at *4. So, plaintiff made 2 laundry lists – one of “various federal regulations” and another of defendant’s alleged misconducts. Double the nonsense.

First, plaintiff included regulations that go to the adequacy of defendant’s PMA application. “But FDA’s approval demonstrates the agency’s reasonable assurance of [the device’s] safety and effectiveness based on the application.” Id. So any claim premised on those regulations is preempted. Second, the court moved on to TwIqbal finding some allegations so poorly pleaded that it is “impossible to determine whether they add to federal requirements and hare hence preempted.” Id. Finally, some allegations were completely conclusory.

Plaintiff’s second list wasn’t much better. Not only did it include conclusory allegations – basically just speculation – but plaintiff also included alleged misconduct that was irrelevant. For example, plaintiff alleged wrongdoing regarding device components used in off-label combinations but plaintiff was implanted with such a combination. In other words, plaintiff was tossing pasta at the wall and just hoping something stuck. That’s not good enough under TwIqbal.

The only allegation that made the cut was failure to report adverse events. Id. This is California, so it’s to be expected.

Negligence: This largely mirrors plaintiff’s strict liability claim and suffers the same fate. The only new “misconduct” included in the negligence count was about defendant’s withdrawal of the device for “demographics groups” to which plaintiff didn’t belong. Irrelevant. Id. at *5. And, plaintiff surmised that defendant’s breach proximately caused his injury but provided no support for that allegation. Id. The entire negligence claim was dismissed.

Breach of express warranty: Again, most of plaintiff’s allegations are insufficient:

Without more details, the statements that [defendant’s] devices are of merchantable quality, safe, effective, and fit and proper for its intended use are no more than an affirmation merely of the value of the goods or a statement purporting to be merely the seller’s opinion or commendation of the goods. Such unspecific statements do not create a warranty.

Id. (citation and quotation marks omitted). The court did find that a press release cited by plaintiff created an express warranty but plaintiff failed to allege how the press release violated any PMA requirement. Without that, the claim was dismissed without prejudice.

Breach of implied warranty: This claim was preempted:

Both types of implied warranties involve an assertion that the goods are fit for then intended purpose. Implied warranty of merchantability further imposes labeling requirement and requires that the goods conform to the statements on the label. But these conditions are precisely what a PMA entails. Thus, unless the defendant violates these conditions under the PMA, § 360k(a) expressly preempts this claim.

Id. at *6 (citation omitted). Since plaintiff used the device for the purpose the FDA approved – no breach of implied warranty claim.

Fraudulent concealment: Here again plaintiff attempts to rely on a failure to report adverse events to state his claim. But essential to a fraud claim is that defendant had a duty to disclose the concealed fact to plaintiff. Id. We think this negates failure to report as a basis for strict liability as well and we’ve made our views on that clear many times. Here, plaintiff didn’t allege that federal regulations require defendant to report adverse events to plaintiff – nor can he because that’s not the law. That means that this would be an “additional requirement” which is preempted. Id..

The claim also failed for no allegation of intentional concealment by defendant and for not satisfying Rule 9(b)’s heightened pleading requirement for fraud. Id.

It may not be the latest and greatest, but it adds to the wealth of decisions tossing plaintiffs’ multi-paragraph list of violations which are a lot more bark than bite.

This post is from the non-Reed Smith side of the blog only.

We truly dislike decisions that find that claims of failure to report adverse events to the FDA are non-preempted, parallel violation failure to warn claims. Failure to report claims are not parallel.  Federal law does not require warnings to plaintiff or her doctors.  State law does not require warnings to the FDA. In the absence of a state-law duty to make reports to a government agency, a failure to report claim is an improper private attempt to enforce the FDCA. It is a claim that should not survive either express or implied preemption.

But, some courts do allow it, such as Bull v. St. Jude Medical, Inc., 2018 WL 3397544 (E.D. Pa. Jul. 12, 2018). Now, we think the Bull court is overstating when it says “most courts” to have considered a failure to report claim have found it to be a parallel claim. We refer you to our PMA Preemption scorecard which clearly shows this is an issue on which courts are split. Nor is the reasoning of the opinion anything new. Defendant had a duty under state law to warn physicians and a duty under federal law to comply with adverse event reporting requirements and those two requirements aren’t in conflict with each other. Id. at *8. But just because two roads don’t intersect doesn’t mean they are parallel.

And, because Pennsylvania doesn’t recognize a state law failure to report claim, any such claim exists solely as a result of the FDCA and therefore should also be impliedly preempted. Again, having concluded there are parallel duties, Bull also concludes no implied preemption. The court found that plaintiff alleged a valid state law failure to warn claim that was based on a failure to comply with its federal duty to report adverse events to the FDA. Id. at *9.

We don’t like those conclusions, but it’s also not the first time we’ve seen them. Where we usually take solace is that more often than not a finding that a failure to report claim is not preempted is followed by a finding that it is also not adequately pleaded. We refer you back again to the PMA Preemption scorecard for the many, many decisions reaching that conclusion. The primary reason the claim fails TwIqbal – failure to sufficiently plead causation.

Unfortunately, the court in Bull gave plaintiff a pass on pleading physician-specific warning causation. The complaint “does not even allege that [plaintiff’s] doctors consulted the [FDA adverse event] database, or any other source of . . . adverse event reports, when making their treatment decisions.” Id. But the court found that unnecessary. Instead, all that was required was an allegation that prior to the implantation of the device in plaintiff, defendant failed to disclose adverse events that if disclosed may have led her doctor’s not to use the device. Id.

That shouldn’t be enough. Even Stengel v. Medtronic Inc., 704 F.3d 1224 (9th Cir. 2013) (en banc), which allowed a failure to report claim, acknowledged that causation is a particularly problematic hurdle for plaintiffs:

Because they predicate their claim on [defendant’s] reporting duty to the FDA, as they must to avoid express preemption, [plaintiffs] face a causation hurdle that would not otherwise exist.  To prevail, they will ultimately have to prove that if [defendant] had properly reported the adverse events to the FDA as required under federal law, that information would have reached [the prescribing] doctors in time to prevent [plaintiffs’] injuries.

Stengel, 704 F.3d at 1234-35 (concurring opinion). Therefore, the causal chain requires both that the FDA would do something differently (such as make the adverse events public), and that that hypothetical action by the FDA would have caused the prescriber, in turn, to change his/her prescribing decision in some way that would have prevented the claimed injuries. Plaintiff’s allegations in Bull, as set forth in the opinion, are much too vague to support a plausible causation claim.

And the analysis shouldn’t have stopped there. The opinion actually sets forth sufficient facts that were pleaded to support reaching just the opposite conclusion on causation.

First, would the FDA would have done something differently? Plaintiff had the device implanted in 2010 and began experiencing problems with it in 2015. Bull at *5. Per the facts alleged, in 2009 the FDA conducted an inspection of defendant’s manufacturing facility. Id. at *2. The report of that inspection included information about Medical Device Reports (MDRs) that were either untimely or not submitted to the FDA. Id. at *3. It also included an analysis of MDRs both at the company and within the FDA’s database. Id. at *2-3. So, what the facts establish is that the FDA became aware of these adverse events a year before plaintiff received the device and at no time prior to plaintiff’s surgery did the FDA require defendant to take any further action to warn physicians beyond the existing labeling and warnings. So there is no causal nexus between the alleged failure to report and plaintiff’s injury.

Moreover, to the extent plaintiff relies on a 2011 FDA Safety Officer Report and a 2012 483 Inspection, those took place after plaintiff was implanted with the device and if they involve allegedly unreported events after 2010 – they can have no bearing on causation. To establish causation plaintiff should be required to prove (and plead) that had the adverse events been properly reported to the FDA, the information would have reached plaintiff’s physician in time to prevent the alleged injuries.

Second, would plaintiff’s doctors have done something differently? Well, because the FDA didn’t take action the answer is there is nothing to trigger plaintiff’s doctors doing anything different either. But, there is also the added fact that in this case after the events were reported and the FDA did require some additional warnings and even after the FDA recalled the device – plaintiff’s doctors did not explant the device. Id. at *5. While we are only privy to what’s reported in the complaint, we think the second link in the causal chain is likely broken as well.

We have a hard time imagining this case getting beyond summary judgment on causation based on what we see as the regulatory history from the opinion. We’ve talked in greater detail about this causation hurdle in failure to report cases here. So, while defendant lost at this stage, we are optimistic about a win in the future.

This post is from the non-Reed Smith side of the blog.

You’re likely all familiar with the phrase, “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” Checking out a gift horse’s teeth is like looking for the price tag of the gift to see how much it’s worth. The expression is meant to convey that upon receiving a gift you should accept it gratefully. But what happens when you don’t accept the gift at all. In many instances, politely declining a gift is completely acceptable. When the gift actually comes in the form of help, passing it up may well be to your own detriment. Sure, it looks good to stand on your own two feet. To accomplish something on your own. But sometimes offers of help are extended because they are needed. A parent offers to help a child tie his shoe. A teacher offers to guide a student through a math lesson. A young man offers to cut the grass for an elderly neighbor. Or perhaps a judge offers plaintiff an opportunity to take discovery to save her case. And that plaintiff says: No thanks. I’ll stand “on the allegations contained in [my] original complaint.” That plaintiff shouldn’t be surprised that what wasn’t good enough the first time around, isn’t good enough the second.

The case is Benyak v. Medtronic, Inc., 2018 Ill. App. Unpub. LEXIS 998 (Ill. App. Jun. 14, 2018) and involves an implanted intrathecal pump that plaintiff alleges became inverted in her body causing her pain. Id. at *2. Plaintiff alleged only negligent design and manufacturing defect and negligent education of medical providers. Id. at *2-3. The medical device underwent pre-market approval by the FDA and so defendant moved to dismiss the claims as preempted. That motion was granted but the court granted plaintiff leave to serve written discovery on the manufacturer and then to file an amended complaint. Plaintiff opted to do neither and so the court dismissed her claims with prejudice. Id. at *2. Plaintiff then appealed that dismissal arguing that her original allegations should have survived defendant’s motion to dismiss.

The Illinois Appellate Court authored a nice accounting of PMA preemption, see id. at *5-15, which we won’t completely recount here because if you are even an infrequent reader of this blog, you’re likely well-versed in PMA preemption. And if not, check out this scorecard to start your PMA preemption education. We will point out the court’s proper conclusion that because of the MDA’s express preemption provision, there is no presumption against preemption. Id. at *10. Also that the court landed where most court’s do, finding that there is only “a small window in which a state-law claim may escape express or implied preemption.” Id. at *13. Finally, before turning to the case-specific details, the court notes that “the manner in which allegations are pled guides the analysis of whether a state-law claim involves requirements different from, or in addition to, the federal requirements.” Id. at *15.

Since it was undisputed that the device at issue was a PMA device, there was also no dispute that the FDA had established requirements applicable to it. Id. So the court moved on to the next part of the PMA-preemption analysis – did plaintiff’s state law claims involve requirements related to safety and effectiveness different from or in addition to federal requirements. Because safety was at the heart of plaintiff’s claims, the only real issue was the “different or in addition to” standard. In other words, did plaintiff’s claim parallel the federal requirements established by the FDA for this device.

As for design and manufacturing defect – plaintiff’s complaint was completely silent as to whether the device was designed or manufactured differently or out of compliance with the FDA’s approval and protocols. Id. at *16-17.

Absent such factual allegations, plaintiff, in essence, posits that the [device] should have been designed and manufactured differently than what the FDA approved during the premarket approval process, which necessarily would impose a requirement for the [device] that is different from, or in addition to, the requirements already imposed by the FDA.

Id. at *17.

On appeal, plaintiff argued that “the ability of the [device] to remain upright” was a premarket requirement that defendant failed to meet. However, the complaint “never specifically identified any specific requirement resulting from the premarket approval process.” Id. at *19. And this brings us back to that gift horse:

Understandably, at the time plaintiff filed her complaint, she might not have had enough facts to support her allegations, which is why the circuit court allowed her leave to serve written discovery on defendants and file an amended complaint. Had she taken the opportunity to conduct the discovery, she could have bolstered the allegations of her complaint and perhaps, her state-law claim would not have been expressly preempted by the MDA. But she chose not to conduct the discovery nor file an amended complaint, resulting in her design and manufacturing defect claim, as pled in her complaint, being expressly preempted.

Id. at *19-20. It jumped right up and bit her.

As for plaintiff’s other claim, negligent instruction, it is not a recognized claim under Illinois law. Id. Even if it were, plaintiff didn’t allege that the instructions defendant provided deviated from those approved by the FDA during the PMA process. Id. at *21. So, that’s two grounds to affirm the dismissal. Plaintiff attempted to turn the claim into a learned intermediary claim arguing it was really a failure to warn the doctor claim. But, that’s not what plaintiff alleged in the complaint. The complaint never mentions learned intermediary and the court was unwilling to construe it as such.

Finally, plaintiff asked for the case to be remanded with leave to amend her complaint. Wow. Once you refuse a gift it’s much less likely you’ll get offered it again. The appellate court found that because plaintiff had “intentionally” chose not to take discovery and amend her complaint when that opportunity was afforded to her, “she has waived any right to a remand with leave to amend.” Id. at *22.

We often talk about giving plaintiffs second bites at trying to plead their claims. But if you’re going to toss the apple away without so much as a nibble, don’t be surprised when the gift horse you decided to ignore gobbles it up and spits it out with nothing left for you to chomp on.

 

This post is from the non-Reed Smith side of the blog.

What happens when a case involving a medical device that received Pre-Market Approval from the FDA survives, or at least some part of it survives, a motion to dismiss based on preemption? In recent years, as the law has developed and become increasingly favorable for defendants, most of our posts about PMA preemption are at the motion to dismiss stage. That’s because usually not much survives beyond that point. So when we happened upon Delfino v. Medtronic, Inc., 2018 WL 2688420 (Minn. Dist. May 18, 2018), we decided it warranted more than just a notch on our PMA preemption scorecard.

It looks like all the claims in this case were originally tossed back in 2012 but plaintiff was given an opportunity to amend her complaint to properly allege parallel violation claims. Now, almost 6 years since that decision – during which time we assume significant discovery was conducted – all of plaintiff’s claims are being dismissed again. Plaintiff’s negligence and strict liability claims are preempted for lack of evidence of a violation of a federal requirement and plaintiff’s warranty claims are barred by the express terms of the limited warranty of the device.

The device at issue is an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (“ICD”) and there is no dispute that it is a Class III, PMA medical device and therefore subject to preemption under Riegel v. Medtronic, 552 U.S. 312 (2008). Any state law tort claim must therefore parallel, rather than add to, federal requirements. Id. at *3. In other words plaintiff has to prove the violation of a federal requirement applicable to the device, violation of an identical state-law duty, and causation. Id. It is also not disputed that the device’s battery prematurely depleted and required replacement earlier than anticipated. Id. at *1.

We won’t walk through all the nitty-gritty, but section I.C of the opinion documents how Medtronic went about introducing manufacturing and testing records to refute plaintiff’s manufacturing defect claim. Via records, deposition testimony, and affidavits Medtronic was able to demonstrate “the manufacturing and inspection history” of the device which in turn proved that the device “passed all quality control inspections, and complied with the FDA-imposed requirements.” Id. at *4. Defendant also established that they learned that a subset of the ICD’s were suffering from premature battery depletion due to the copper used in certain of the electrodes in the device’s capacitors. It was found that copper from one supplier was at the root of the problem and defendant stopped using that copper going forward. Id.

Against that history, the question for the court was whether there was any violation of a federal requirement. Plaintiff first argued that by using copper in it capacitors, defendant was violating a federal manufacturing specification that the end terminations of the capacitors consist of plated tin over nickel. Putting aside that the copper was not used in the end terminations and that defendant’s end terminations were plated tin over nickel – there was nothing in the requirement that barred the use of copper. Id. at *5-6. As the court more fully explains, PMA silence doesn’t mean PMA forbiddance. The court points first to the language of the requirement at issue to show that when the FDA wanted to impose a prohibition it did so expressly. Id. at *6. And, if plaintiff’s theory were correct, no PMA would ever have to include prohibitory language because everything not expressly allowed would in fact be prohibited. If silence is going to be so all-encompassing, the result would be an even greater review burden on the FDA. Id. Otherwise the silence would almost assuredly be deafening.

Moreover, if plaintiff wants to rely on a “prohibited-unless-expressly-authorized” theory, she’s walking herself away from a parallel violation claim. “If the federal requirements are silent on a particular matter, than any state-law requirement as to that matter is necessarily ‘in addition to’ federal requirements.” Id.  That means plaintiff’s attempt to circumvent preemption actually ran her head first into it.

Finally, in opining that the ICD should have been made without copper, plaintiff’s expert neglects to explain how the capacitors could function without it. It’s a technical argument about electrodes (and that’s not this blogger’s area of expertise) but the more general takeaway is that you can’t argue a design that is non-functional. “State tort law that requires a manufacturer’s [device] to be safer, but hence less effective, than the model the FDA has approved disrupts the federal scheme no less than a state regulatory law to the same effect.” Id. at *7 (citation omitted).

Plaintiff’s next argument centered on device longevity. In its PMA submission, defendant included a projection that the ICD would generally perform for 5.1 years. Plaintiff argued that that projection became a requirement when the PMA was approved. But while the FDA could have established a performance standard for the ICD, it did not. Id. “Indeed, the mere fact that a device malfunctioned is not evidence that the device violated any federal requirement. Id. at *8 (with a lengthy list of citations to demonstrate the point). PMA approval is a “reasonable assurance” of safety, not a guarantee. In fact, PMA devices are by definition those with higher risks. That’s why they go through the heightened scrutiny and a risk/benefit analysis for approval. “If premature device failure were enough to withstand preemption, then few if any medical device claims would be preempted.” Id. The MDA and Riegel would be “dead letters.” Id.

Plaintiff’s final argument to try to establish a parallel violation claim was that at the time the ICD was returned to defendant, three years after manufacture, the capacitor leakage current measured higher than allowed. Id. But that’s an irrelevant fact. “For her claim to survive preemption, Plaintiff must offer evidence that [defendant] violated a federal manufacturing requirement during the device’s manufacture.” Id. To which we point you back to the really nice way Medtronic confirmed that its manufacturing process was fully compliant.

That left only plaintiff’s warranty claims. First, they were barred by the terms of defendant’s limited warranty, which defendant honored and under which plaintiff made no claim. Id. at *10. But, they were also impliedly preempted. To prevail on a warranty claim that implicates safety or effectiveness, plaintiff must convince the jury that the device was not safe and effective – directly contrary to the FDA’s conclusions. Juries can’t be allowed to “substitute their own cost-benefit analysis in place of that applied by the experts at the FDA.” Id. at *10-11.

Would we prefer an early out on a motion to dismiss? Sure. But, sometimes a few claims squeak by and when they do, as we’ve always opined, plaintiffs still face a daunting uphill battle to survive summary judgment scrutiny.

This one comes from Alabama and it’s pretty straightforward – plaintiff’s claims are preempted and therefore dismissed with a little wiggle room left for an attempted amended complaint. But as we know, for Pre-Market Approved (PMA) devices, there is only a “narrow gap” between express and implied preemption through which a claim must fit to survive. And so far, plaintiff has been ping-ponging off the sides but hasn’t made it through the gap.

The case is Rice v. Allergan USA, Inc., 2018 WL 1618036 (N.D. Ala. Apr. 4, 2018). Plaintiff had LAP-BAND surgery to aid with weight loss. The LAP-BAND is a PMA device. After seven years, plaintiff started to experience difficulty swallowing and frequent vomiting and upon investigation it was discovered that the LAP-BAND had eroded into plaintiff’s stomach and had to be removed. Id. at *2. Plaintiff conceded several of her claims. Those that remained for ruling by the court were negligence, failure to warn, and negligent or fraudulent misrepresentation. Id. at *3. Plaintiff’s primary allegation in support of these claims was that while defendant’s label reported a 1% risk of erosion, studies revealed a higher complication rate. Id. at *2.

Because the LAP-BAND went through the PMA process, plaintiff’s claims are preempted unless they satisfy the “parallel claim doctrine.” That means plaintiff has to show that the state law duties she alleges defendant violated and for which she seeks damages are “genuinely equivalent” to the federal requirements imposed on the device. Id. at *5. Only when the state and federal duties are parallel will plaintiff’s claim not run afoul of the provision of the Medical Device Amendments (“MDA”) that a state not impose requirements that are “different from or in addition to” federal requirements. Id.

Plaintiff’s first negligence claim was for negligent design and manufacture. However, while she made several allegations about the device having significant risks, nowhere did plaintiff allege how the manufacturer’s duty of care under state law “parallels the federal requirement that the [device] be manufactured according to the approved specifications for the medical device.” Id. at *6. If the device was designed and manufactured according to its PMA specifications, then allowing a jury to find it was negligently designed or manufactured would be imposing a different or additional requirement on the manufacturer. Therefore, claim preempted.

Next up was plaintiff’s negligent failure to warn claim. The court actually broke the claim down into 5 theories on which failure to warn was premised: negligent marketing, negligent labeling, negligent failure to update labeling, negligent reporting, and negligent surveillance. Id. It’s worth noting here that the court applies all the same reasoning in concluding that plaintiff’s strict liability failure to warn claim is similarly preempted. Id. at *8.

Here plaintiff did cite federal regulations but still missed the mark. For instance, plaintiff cited 21 C.F.R. §99.101 which provides:

[a] manufacturer may disseminate written information concerning the safety, effectiveness, or benefit of a use not described in the approved labeling…provided that the manufacturer complies with all other relevant requirements under this part.

Plaintiff alleges that the defendant violated this federal regulation by failing to provide additional risk information about the device. But all this section does is provide a guideline should a manufacturer choose to disseminate additional information. Choosing not to do so doesn’t violate the provision. Id. at *6.

Plaintiff also cites to the Changes Being Effected (“CBE”) provisions arguing that the defendant violated those provisions by failing to implement a CBE warning. However, a CBE labeling-change is permission to change a label “while a manufacturer awaits a written FDA order approving the PMA supplement.” Id. at *7. But plaintiff did not allege that the defendant was awaiting an FDA order on a PMA supplement, so it is unknown if the provision even applies.

Plaintiff also tried to base her failure to warn claim on an alleged violation of defendant’s federal duties to report adverse events to the FDA and to conduct post-market surveillance. Id. But the court considered both of those claims impliedly preempted on the grounds that they were unlawful attempts to privately enforce the FDCA. The court said failure to report sounds like it could be failure to warn, but the requirement is to report to the FDA, not to plaintiff. And there simply is no state law cause of action for post-market surveillance. Id.

Finally, the court had to dismiss plaintiff’s misrepresentation claim based on plaintiff’s vague pleadings. If what plaintiff was alleging is that defendant should have disclosed additional information and such a disclosure requirement exceeded FDA’s requirements, the claim would be preempted as not parallel. If, on the other hand, plaintiff was alleging that the defendant “held its product out as meeting a higher standard than that required by the FDA,” such a claim would not be preempted. Id. Since the former is more likely, it appears that a properly pleaded claim is likely preempted.

Yesterday happened to be the deadline for plaintiff to file an amended complaint, which she did. A quick skim of the amended complaint leads us to believe it contains most of the same allegations and therefore deficiencies the court has already addressed. And, plaintiff re-pleaded the claims she conceded as insufficiently pleaded the first time around. We suspect another round of preemption briefing in this case’s future.

(Note that this post comes from the Cozen O’Connor side of the blog.)

Good morning. Do you have your coffee? If so, start sipping it. You will need it. Because this morning we’re going to discuss leads for implantable cardiac defibrillators (“ICD”), Riata Leads to be precise. Now, while this may not be the most thrilling subject, you have to admit that Riata Leads is a solid name. It sounds like something important, like rock-solid leads for selling real estate, the type of game-changing leads that Shelly “the Machine” Levene would plot to steal from his boss’s office. Like the Glengarry leads. But these are not the Glengarry leads. They truly are ICD leads, ones that detect a patient’s abnormal heartbeat and deliver an electric shock to restore a normal heartbeat. So take another sip of your coffee.

Plaintiff Richard Connelly alleges that in 2003 his doctors surgically connected Riata Leads to his heart but that, in 2010, the leads improperly shocked him 16 to 20 times while he slept, causing damage to his heart and requiring surgery to replace them. Connelly v. St. Jude Med., Inc., 2018 WL 732734, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 6, 2018). Plaintiff hired a lawyer and sued, claiming that St. Jude, the manufacturer, failed to file adverse event reports about the Riata Leads and that, if it had, plaintiff’s doctor would not have implanted them or, in the least, would have removed them after he did implant them. Id. at *1-2.

As you can probably tell already, this is another parallel violation claim. So take another sip. Plaintiffs file a lot of these claims. We write about them often. And they often fail, for many reasons. This one failed because plaintiff didn’t adequately allege causation. In particular, his complaint didn’t connect the defendant’s alleged failure to file adverse event reports about the Riata Leads to his doctor’s decision to implant them or leave them in.

In this respect, the allegations had a number of problems. They had a timing problem. The allegations did not plausibly suggest that the defendants failed to file adverse reports about the Riata Leads before they were implanted in plaintiff, which happened in 2003. Id. at 3. The allegations had regulatory problems. While the FDA issued a 483 Report covering the years 2002 to 2009 noting that the defendant failed to file adverse event reports on Riata Leads, plaintiff did not identify a single failure to file a report before the Riata Leads were implanted in him in 2003. Id. The allegations had defect identification problems. The FDA inspection that resulted in the 483 Report focused on malfunctions in the Riata Leads due to perforation, but the defect alleged by plaintiff had to do with improper abrasion. Id. OK, take one last sip of coffee. We’re almost there.

Finally, plaintiff claimed that defendant’s failed to file adverse event reports about Riata Leads after they were implanted in him, resulting in his doctor not removing them. This theory failed as a matter of California law, which does not allow such claims:

[T]o the extent Connelly’s claim is premised on a theory that St. Jude had a post-distribution (i.e., post-implantation) duty to warn, this fails as a matter of law. Under California law, a defendant may be held strictly liable for a failure to warn only if “the defendant did not adequately warn of a particular risk that was known or knowable…at the time of manufacture and distribution.” Anderson v. Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp., 810 P.2d 549, 558 (Cal. 1991).

Id. at 4.

Having already dismissed plaintiff’s complaint once before, this time the Court dismissed it with prejudice.

Ok, all done. Now “Put . . . that . . . coffee . . . down! (I’m here from downtown. . . . I’m here from Mitch and Murray.)

Several years ago, in a post entitled “Negligence Per Se Trivia,” we included the following:

In Kentucky, negligence per se has been codified, and claims based on federal (but not state) statutes or regulations (like the FDCA) are prohibited.  St. Luke Hospital, Inc. v. Straub, 354 S.W.3d 529, 534 & n.14 (Ky. 2011); T & M Jewelry, Inc. v. Hicks, 189 S.W.3d 526, 530 (Ky. 2006).

Our only other encounter with Kentucky FDCA-based negligence per se claims involved a misbegotten case that held such a claim wasn’t preempted, but didn’t address the claim’s viability under state law.  See Steiden v. Genzyme BioSurgery, 2012 WL 2923225 (W.D. Ky. July 18, 2012)

We thought we’d look at this issue more closely.  Here is what’s going on.  The earlier of these cases, T & M, involved a peculiar state statute that “codifies the doctrine of negligence per se in Kentucky.”  189 S.W.3d at 530.  That statute provides:

A person injured by the violation of any statute may recover from the offender such damages as he sustained by reason of the violation, although a penalty or forfeiture is imposed for such violation.

Ky. Rev. Stat. §446.070.  In determining the scope of this statute, T & M construed it in pari materia (that’s legal Latin for “in conjunction with other provisions about the same subject”) with the rest of that chapter, pointing out that “numerous provisions in KRS Chapter 446 refer to ‘the statute laws of this state,’ and also repeatedly refer to acts or intent of ‘the General Assembly.’”  189 S.W.3d at 530 (footnotes containing citations omitted).  Against that legislative background, the Kentucky Supreme Court concluded that plaintiffs claiming “injur[y] by the violation of any statute” in Kentucky were limited to asserting violations of Kentucky – not federal (or other state) – statutes:

Thus “any statute” in KRS 446.070 has been held to be limited to Kentucky statutes and not to federal statutes or local ordinances.  The Kentucky General Assembly did not intend for KRS 446.070 to embrace the whole of federal laws and the laws of other states and thereby confer a private civil remedy for such a vast array of violations.

189 S.W.3d at 530 (footnotes containing citations omitted).

That limitation has been the law of Kentucky ever since. In St. Luke Hospital, Inc. v. Straub, 354 S.W.3d 529 (Ky. 2011), a case involving (state) constitutional civil rights litigation, the Kentucky high court reiterated this holding while rejecting the plaintiff’s state-law analogy to 42 U.S.C. §1983:

Precedent acknowledges some restrictions on the applicability of KRS 446.070.  The “any statute” language used applies to Kentucky statutes. Our courts have considered the application of the statute to federal laws and regulations. . . .   Violations of federal laws and regulations . . . do not create a cause of action based on KRS 446.070.

354 S.W.3d at 534 & nn.10, 14 (citing T & M).  Other Kentucky courts continue to follow these holdings that plaintiffs claiming injuries from statutory/regulatory violations under Kentucky law cannot assert violations of federal enactments.  Harrison Memorial Hospital, Inc. v. Wellcare Health Insurance Co., 509 S.W.3d 69, 75 (Ky. App. 2016) (no negligence per se or other private recovery for alleged Medicaid reimbursement violations), review denied (Ky. Feb. 9, 2017); Brock v. Bennett, 2015 WL 136330, at *4 (Ky. App. Jan. 9, 2015) (no negligence per se based on alleged violation of Federal Building Code), review denied (Ky. Sept. 16, 2015); Jackson v. JB Hunt Transportation, Inc., 384 S.W.3d 177, 182-83 (Ky. App. 2012), review denied (Ky. Dec. 12, 2012) (no negligence per se based on alleged violation of federal trucking regulations); Gordon v. Turner, 2016 WL 3636073, at *7-8 (E.D. Ky. June 29, 2016) (same as Jackson); Gonzalez v. City of Owensboro, 2015 WL 4594505, at *8 (W.D. Ky. July 30, 2015) (no negligence per se based on alleged violation of National Electrical Code); Wise v. Pine Tree Villa, LLC, 2015 WL 1611804, at *3 (W.D. Ky. April 10, 2015) (no negligence per se based on alleged violation of federal regulations governing certification of long-term care facilities); Halcomb v. Britthaven, Inc., 2015 WL 998560, at *4 (E.D. Ky. March 5, 2015) (same as Wise); Vanhook v. Somerset Health Facilities, LP, 67 F. Supp.3d 810, 817-18 (E.D. Ky. 2014) (no negligence per se based on alleged violation of federal Social Security regulations); Kelter v. Wasp, Inc., 2014 WL 4639914, at *8 (W.D. Ky. Sept. 16, 2014) (no negligence per se based on alleged violation of federal OSHA regulations); McCarty v. Covol Fuels No. 2, LLC, 978 F. Supp.2d 799, 808-09 (W.D. Ky. 2013) (no negligence per se based on alleged violation of federal mine safety regulations); Pace v. Medco Franklin RE, LLC, 2013 WL 3233469, at *2 (W.D. Ky. June 25, 2013) (same as Wise); Cummins v. BIC USA, Inc., 2011 WL 1399768, at *3 (W.D. Ky. April 13, 2011) (no negligence per se based on alleged violation of federal childproofing regulation).

Notably in Young v. Carran, 289 S.W.3d 586 (Ky. App. 2008), a plaintiff seeking to recover for purported HIPAA violations, after losing under Ky. Rev. Stat. §446.070, tried to maintain the same claim under some sort of residual “common law” negligence per se theory that supposedly survived the legislature’s action.  That gossamer-thin attempted distinction also failed, with a unanimous court holding:

[Plaintiff] next contends that [HIPAA regulations] impose a duty of care on Appellees allowing for a Kentucky “common law” negligence per se claim.  [plaintiff’s] reliance upon T & M . . . in support of her argument is misplaced.  In that case, the Supreme Court of Kentucky used provisions of [a] federal [statute] to define a duty of care for purposes of a common law negligence action − not a KRS 446.070 negligence per se claim.  Indeed, the Court expressly refused to apply the act in a negligence per se context.  Therefore, her claim must be rejected.

Id. at 589 (citations omitted).  There is thus no “lingering” common law out there.  Sadler v. Advanced Bionics, Inc., 929 F. Supp.2d 670, 681 n.10 (W.D. Ky. 2013).

In drug/medical device litigation, Kentucky courts that have addressed the issue have held that Ky. Rev. Stat. §446.070 bars all negligence per se claims asserting violations of the FDCA or FDA regulations.  Waltenburg v. St. Jude Medical, Inc., 33 F. Supp.3d 818, 837 (W.D. Ky. 2014); Sadler, 929 F. Supp.2d at 681.

We think that these cases, while correctly decided, do not do §446.070 justice. The statute isn’t limited to negligence per se, indeed the statute is not targeted against any particular cause of action.  Rather, the legislature cast its statutory net much more broadly − the universe of claims covered by §446.070 extends to any “person injured by the violation of any statute.”  That language reaches any supposed “parallel” claim, no matter how captioned.  The recent decision, Moore v. Zydus Pharmaceuticals (USA), Inc., ___ F. Supp.3d ___, 2017 WL 4365162 (E.D. Ky. Sept. 29, 2017), involving generic drugs, rather than medical devices, thus took a step in the right direction in holding that §446.070 precluded any “negligence” claim, not merely one denominated “negligence per se.”

The Kentucky Supreme Court’s holding in T & M . . . offers binding and unequivocal precedent concerning the scope of KRS 446.070 and demonstrates that [plaintiff] does not have a state based right to sue for negligence in this matter.

Id. at *7.  We think the same thing could be said for any “parallel” claim, whether purporting to sound in strict liability, warranty, or any other theory.  As long as the claim is brought by a “person injured by the violation of any statute” – which parallel claims, by their nature, must be – then, quite apart from preemption, they may not be brought under Ky. Rev. Stat. §446.070.  We also note that the same result could also be reached under implied preemption under Buckman Co. v. Plaintiffs Legal Committee, 531 U.S. 341 (2001), since in §446.070 the Kentucky legislature abolished any “parallel” state-law action.

This post is from the non-Reed Smith side of the blog.

In our post earlier this week “No Causation, No ‘Parallel Claim’” we examined the enormous causation hurdle plaintiffs face in trying to prove a Stengel or Hughes type failure to warn claim in those jurisdictions where such a claim has been found not to be preempted. In that post, we commented that we “would have preferred an order finding the failure-to-warn claims preempted.” Well today, we bring you two that do just that. The first a complete preemption win, the other only a partial, but we’ll start with the good news.

Both Golden v. Brown, Case # 17CV30568, slip op. (Colo. Dist. Ct. Sep. 24, 2017) and Norabuena v. Medtronic, Inc., 2017 Ill. App. LEXIS 593 (Ill. App. Sep. 20, 2017) refused to recognize a failure to warn claim premised on a failure to report adverse events to the FDA – a Stengel claim if you’re in the Ninth Circuit and a Hughes claim if you’re in the Fifth. Now neither Colorado nor Illinois is in those circuits, but we’d like to think that regardless these state courts would have reached the same conclusion they did – neither Colorado nor Illinois law recognizes a claim for failure to warn the FDA. So, plaintiff can allege defendant violated a federal regulation by failing provide information to the FDA – but it isn’t “parallel” to any state law claim because there is no such state law claim. The Illinois appellate court summed it up nicely:

[A]lthough plaintiffs have identified a federal requirement that their complaint alleges Medtronic violated, there is no Illinois requirement that parallels it. Plaintiffs asserted claims for failure to warn. Although Illinois recognizes that a manufacturer may satisfy its duty to warn by conveying information to third-party learned intermediaries, this is not synonymous with an affirmative duty to warn a federal regulatory body. The learned intermediary doctrine states that a manufacturer has a duty to warn prescribing physicians of a drug’s known dangerous propensities” under the understanding that those physicians will use their expert knowledge in adequately warning the patient. We cannot find that this duty is parallel to the federal requirement.

Norabuena, 2017 Ill. App. LEXIS 593 at **14. The Colorado court not only found that allegations of failure to report adverse events to the FDA don’t state a parallel claim, but also concluded that Stengel and Hughes “cannot be reconciled with 21 U.S.C. §360k(a) as interpreted in Riegel or 21 U.S.C. §337(a) as interpreted in Buckman.” Golden, slip op. at 3. In other words, failure to warn a learned intermediary is different from and in addition to federal requirements regarding reporting of adverse events and a claim for failure to provide information to the FDA is an improper attempt at private enforcement of the FDCA. Just what we’ve been saying since these two awful decisions came down.

Both decisions have a little more to discuss.

In Golden, plaintiff also attempted to base a parallel claim on alleged violations of Current Good Manufacturing Processes (“CGMPs”). Noting that it was joining the majority of courts to have considered the issue, the court ruled that the CGMPs are too “vague” and “open-ended” to serve as a basis for a parallel claim. Id. at 2. The court also found plaintiff’s breach of implied warranty of merchantability claim preempted as essentially an allegation that the device was not safe and effective which would directly contradict the FDA’s PMA decision that “there is a reasonable assurance of . . . safety and effectiveness” and therefore expressly preempted. Id. at 3. And finally, the court found plaintiff’s claims impliedly preempted because plaintiff failed to explain “how Defendant’s conduct violated state law duties absent the FDCA.” Id. Simply stating that her claims were premised on Colorado common law was insufficient – “true merely in title, not substance.” Id. Instead, plaintiff’s claim exist solely under the FDCA which is not allowed.

The Golden case also suffered from some pleadings defects, such as failure to allege facts to support either a defect or causation. Id. at 2. But even if those pleading deficiencies could be cured, none of plaintiff’s claims survived preemption, so the case was dismissed in its entirety.

Switching gears to Illinois – unfortunately the court ruled that one of the bases for plaintiff’s failure to warn claim was not preempted. The FDCA contains regulations against device misbranding, which includes advertising that is false and misleading. Norabuena, 2017 Ill. App. LEXIS 593 at **15. Plaintiff alleged that defendant’s advertising was false and misleading in that it concealed known risks of using the device in an off-label manner. Id. at **16. In reaching its conclusion, the court distinguished plaintiff’s claim as not an attack on the device’s label which would be preempted as having been specifically approved by the FDA during the PMA process. But rather, plaintiff was challenging allegedly deceptive marketing practices post pre-market approval. Id. at **17. But that is a distinction without a difference where plaintiff’s allegation is that in its advertising defendant should have included a warning different from or in addition to the warning the FDA approved. The FDA-approved warning is what must accompany product advertising. Think about what the court is saying – if the warning is in the product label it must adhere to the FDA-approved language. If the warning accompanies an advertisement for the product it does not. We do not believe that is something the FDA would allow. While we can understand how a court can find that a false statement made in product promotion may be both a violation of state law and FDCA misbranding regulations, where that falsity is alleged to be a failure to include a warning not approved by the FDA, we respectfully disagree.

But, all is not lost in Norabuena. The appellate court found that plaintiff’s claims were properly dismissed on another ground – failure to plead causation. The complaint apparently was replete with allegations of “omitted” risks, “[h]owever, there are no specific factual allegations in the complaint asserting that [plaintiff’s] surgeon encountered or relied on any of the asserted promotional marketing.” Id. at **21. If a tree falls in the woods. . . . It’s not enough to plead the act or omission, the complaint was also allege facts supporting proximate cause. This pleading deficiency wasn’t enough for a dismissal with prejudice, so the case is heading back to the trial court and plaintiff will have to re-plead her remaining failure to warn claim.

Put a New Yorker and a Californian in a room together and the debate will begin almost immediately. Hollywood v. Broadway. Atlantic v. Pacific. Dodgers v. Yankees or Giants v. Forty-Niners. Shake Shack v. In-N-Out (or is Five Guys overtaking both?). And more generally speaking that east coast/west coast divide extends beyond those two urban hubs. Laid back v. fast-paced lifestyle. Deserts v. low country. Golden Gate v. Sunshine Skyway. Disneyland v. Disney World. And let’s not forget – the west coast may be synonymous with California sunshine, but the east coast gives you actual seasons.

While failure to report adverse event claims are not limited to the west coast, we think of them as Stengel claims. In case you need reminding, we believe that the Ninth Circuit made a historic error in Stengel v. Medtronic Inc., 704 F.3d 1224 (9th Cir., 2013) (en banc), when it equated routine product liability inadequate warning claims with indirect third-party warning claims where the third party is a governmental agency – that is, the FDA. Since Stengel is a Ninth Circuit case and the Ninth Circuit includes the entire west coast – we’re going to saddle the west coast with that one. And we’re going to praise an east coast court for saying, thanks but no thanks.

We’ve talked about Burrell v. Bayer Corporation before when earlier this year the court ruled that allegations of parallel claims in plaintiff’s complaint conferred federal question jurisdiction. After winning on removal, the defendants next moved to dismiss the entire case on preemption. Round 2 goes to defendants as well.

The product at issue is the Essure birth control medical device. It is a pre-market approved device so preemption shouldn’t be a big surprise. Burrell v. Bayer Corp., 2017 WL 1955333, *1 (W.D.N.C. May 10, 2017). As is true of the vast majority of drug and medical device products cases, failure to warn is at the heart of the case. But as we already know, traditional failure to warn claims are preempted in PMA device cases. So, plaintiffs pushed for a Stengel-claim. Plaintiff’s argument is failure to warn premised on failure to provide adverse event reports to the FDA is a non-preempted parallel claim. Unpersuaded by the reasoning of that west coast court, Burrell found that the requirement to report adverse events exists under the FDCA rather than state law and therefore, plaintiff’s failure to warn claim is “being brought because the [] defendants allegedly failed to meet these reporting requirements.” Burrell, at *5 (emphasis added). And where a claim is being brought solely based on a violation of the FDCA – that’s Buckman implied preemption. Traditional failure to warn is expressly preempted, failure to report to the FDA is impliedly preempted. Score one for the east coast for getting this.

But the court didn’t stop there. Analyzing the claim under state law, it still didn’t hold up because plaintiff’s allegations didn’t support a finding of causation. This is where most Stengel claims. By the time the device was implanted in plaintiff, the FDA had received and analyzed the adverse event reports and the subsequent warning did not contain any new information. Id. at *5 (although a black box warning was required, that was a new “type” of warning, the substance of the warning was unchanged). So there was no causal nexus between the alleged failure to report and plaintiff’s injury.

None of plaintiff’s remaining claims fared any better. On failure to train, the claim only survives preemption if premised on allegations that defendant failed to train in accordance with federal requirements. Plaintiff made no such allegations. Id. at *6. Moreover, plaintiff again failed to allege any facts to support a causal connection between the failure to train and her injury. Id. Plaintiff’s negligent manufacturing claim suffered the same fate – no alleged violation of federal requirements and no facts to support causation. Id. Plaintiff’s design defect claim was dismissed as expressly preempted. As a PMA device, the “FDA made its determination of this products safety and effectiveness for its given use. As the plaintiff cannot allege that [defendant] departed from its FDA-approved design of this product, these design defect claims are preempted.” Id. at *7. Even if not preempted, North Carolina does not recognize strict liability claims for products liability. Id.

            Moving on to warranty claims, plaintiff alleged that defendant expressly warranted the product was safe. To find that defendant breached that warranty, a jury would have to conclude that the product was unsafe – which is contrary to the FDA’s conclusion in its pre-market approval that the device was in fact safe and effective. So, express warranty is expressly preempted. Id. Since plaintiff’s implied warranty claim also turned on whether the product was reasonably safe, it too was expressly preempted. “The FDA, under the FDCA and the MDA, has the express authority to make such determinations as to the safety and effectiveness of Class III medical devices.” Id.

Plaintiff’s final claims against the manufacturer were for fraud and unfair trade practices. The court first noted that most of the allegations on these claims were just a re-packaging of the allegations pleaded with plaintiff’s other claims. Since the allege misrepresentations were largely “indistinguishable from FDA-approved labeling statements” – they too were preempted. Id. at *8.

Nice job North Carolina. In the east coast v. west coast debate, we’ll side with an anti-Stengel jurisdiction every time.

This post originates from the non-Reed Smith side of the blog.

A federal judge in Texas recently ruled that Texas law does not allow a claim for negligence per se based solely on alleged violations of the FDCA or FDA regulations. Monk v. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 72477, *21-23 (W.D. Tex May 11, 2017). That seems pretty straightforward to us. Plaintiffs typically use negligence per se to try to privately enforce a provision of the FDCA, i.e., by using an alleged violation of a safety-related provision of the FDCA as the basis for their state law claim.  State law does not always allow this, but even when it does, such a claim should not withstand implied preemption under Buckman.  That is because Buckman and section 337(a) of the FDCA make it clear that litigants cannot privately enforce the FDCA, and a negligence per se claim based on a purported violation of the FDCA is an unveiled attempt to accomplish exactly that. Monk doesn’t say all of that explicitly, but it relies on cases that do. That’s good enough for us.

Plaintiff based her negligence per se claim on the defendants’ alleged failure to provide medication guides for distribution with amiodarone prescriptions.  The basis for the claim was the federal regulation requiring manufacturers of some prescription drugs to make medication guides available either by providing a sufficient number of guides to distributors and dispensers or by providing the means to produce guides in sufficient numbers. Id. at *3, *6 (citing 21 C.F.R. § 208.24(b)).

And this is where things get confusing, because while the court dismissed plaintiff’s negligence per se claim based on violation of this regulation, the court reached the opposite conclusion regarding plaintiff’s negligent failure to warn claim based on exactly the same thing.  A state law failure-to-warn claim based on a violation of federal prescription drug regulations? Sounds like implied preemption to us, but the court concluded that this very federal-sounding claim was actually a parallel state law failure to warn claim. But wait. Isn’t plaintiff suing because the defendant allegedly violated the FDCA.  That’s Buckman implied preemption. As many courts have noted, plaintiffs seeking to avoid preemption have to weave their way through a “narrow gap” by alleging they are suing for conduct that violated the FDCA, but not because the conduct violated the FDCA. But the only allegation here is that defendants did not provide the medication guides as required by federal regulations.

The court’s reasoning is based entirely on dicta in the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Eckhardt v. Qualitest Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 751 F.3d 674, 679 (5th Cir. 2014) that “failing to provide FDA-approved warnings would be a violation of both state and federal law, this is a parallel claim that is not preempted.” Id. But the claim that defendants provided no warnings was not alleged in the complaint and so was not allowed by the court. There is no information in Eckhardt regarding the basis for plaintiff’s claim that defendant failed to provide any warnings and so it is unknown if it was “because” defendant’s violated a federal regulation.

In Monk, the court knew precisely the basis for plaintiff’s failure to warn claim – 21 C.F.R. § 208.24(b); the same basis as plaintiff’s negligence per se claim. That the result is different on both claims is really difficult to reconcile. So we won’t try. We’ll instead reiterate – no negligence per se based on FDCA in Texas.