Parallel Violation Claims

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.

 

We’ve addressed sunscreen class actions here from time to time. The FDA regulates sunscreen as an OTC drug, and so these class actions can generate decisions of interest in areas of preemption and primary jurisdiction. For instance, we told you about, Gisvold v. Merck & Co., 62 F. Supp. 3d 1198 (S.D. Cal. 2014), in which a court found preempted a putative class action plaintiff’s claim that the Coppertone SPORT SPF 100+ she bought at Walmart should have disclaimed that it was no more effective than sunscreen with an SPF of 50.  The court based its preemption determination on the plaintiff seeking labeling that was different from that required by the FDA.  In addition, the court invoked primary jurisdiction, deferring to the FDA on how to address SPF values greater than 50, as the FDA was already in the process of evaluating that issue.

But, as in medical device cases, preemption in sunscreen litigation can seem muddled. Just recently in another sunscreen class action, Dayan v. Swiss-American Prods., Inc. (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 30, 207), a federal court in New York rejected a preemption-based motion to dismiss a claim that the labeling of a sunscreen product as SPF 45 was misleading because the product actually performed at a lower SPF level.  As support for his claim, plaintiff pled data from tests conducted under the FDA’s SPF testing protocols. The court adopted a magistrate’s report and recommendation, which reasoned that the plaintiff’s “state law claims [sat] next to federal regulations and are not premised on Defendant’s alleged failure to comply with FDCA requirements.” Id. at *4. Sort of a parallel violation claim for sunscreen.

As the court conceded, though, its distinction between what is preempted and what is not is, at best, “tricky.” Id. at *10. There seems to be little to no air on which plaintiff’s claim can survive between express and implied preemption. If, as his case develops, plaintiff is left to argue that the defendant followed FDA-mandated protocols in testing the sunscreen and disclosing the results, his claim that the label should nonetheless be different would seem to trigger preemption because it would require something different from what the FDA requires. On the other hand, if plaintiff’s claim, as fleshed out through discovery, appears to be that the defendant failed to follow FDA protocols, it would start to read like an improper attempt to privately enforce FDA regulations.

In other words, sunscreen preemption seems every bit as messy as medical device preemption. Maybe, in this case, it can be cleared up at the summary judgment stage—that is, if this case gets passed class certification—where defendant may have another chance, based on a full record of what plaintiff is trying to do, to ask for judgment based on preemption.

Back in October we posted about the Eastern District of Pennsylvania decision McLaughlin v. Bayer Corp, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37516 (EDPA Mar. 22, 2016) saying that while we liked the ultimate result – tossing out most of plaintiffs’ claims – some pieces of the decision weren’t as strong as we would have liked. Well, McLaughlin’s back and it’s still not a slam dunk, but plaintiffs’ don’t have too much left of their cases either.

As a reminder, this is actually a decision in 5 cases each alleging injury from plaintiffs’ use of a Class III, PMA contraceptive device, Essure. McLaughlin v. Bayer Corp., 2017 WL 697047, at *1 (E.D.Pa. Feb. 21, 2017). Several of plaintiffs’ original causes of action were dismissed with prejudice, but they were given an opportunity to amend to try to salvage their claims for negligent training, negligent risk management, breach of express warranty, fraudulent misrepresentation, and negligent manufacture. Negligent misrepresentation and failure to warn premised on failure to report survived the first motion to dismiss.

The decision methodically goes through each cause of action.

Negligent Training: In its first decision, the court opined it was possible to state a parallel claim for negligent training, but since plaintiffs failed to specify how defendant’s training deviated from federal training requirements or how those deviations caused plaintiffs injuries, the claim had to be dismissed as insufficiently pled. Id. at *3. In the amended complaint, plaintiffs alleged 6 such failures by defendant. As to 3, the court couldn’t find any federal directive that required defendant to do what plaintiffs alleged it failed to do. So, as to those 3 allegations, the claim was dismissed as expressly preempted. Id. at *4-5. As to the remaining 3 alleged violations, defendant challenged them on causation grounds but was unsuccessful. The court found the complaint sufficiently alleged that because defendant failed to properly train the doctors, the doctors in turn did not properly place the device causing it to migrate and cause plaintiffs’ injuries. Id. at *5. The complaint, however, lacked any specific allegations about the actual doctors who performed plaintiffs’ surgeries. The court didn’t find that fatal at the pleadings stage – that was for discovery. Id. at *6. But if you look at what the 3 bases for the failure train claim are, they appear to all be things plaintiffs could have asked their doctors about before filing these lawsuits. Did the doctor successfully complete 5 preceptorings? Did the doctor read and understand the training manual? Did the doctor successfully complete the simulator training? If the answers to those 3 questions are yes in each case – this claim is over.

Continue Reading PMA Preemption Revisited in Pennsylvania

One doesn’t see many new PMA preemption issues raised, but we found a case that does just that – Vincent v. Medtronic, Inc., 2016 WL 7374271 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 20, 2016). We are used to seeing plaintiffs try to use off-label use to circumvent PMA preemption. Just check out any of our Infuse posts to see how badly that has worked out for plaintiffs. They largely unsuccessfully have argued that if a product is used off-label, it is used for a purpose for which its PMA approval does not apply and therefore, the PMA requirements likewise don’t apply which plaintiffs contend means preemption should not apply. The courts have disagreed.

In Vincent, plaintiffs tried a similar end run around preemption. Plaintiff underwent surgical implantation of a pacemaker on February 12, 2004. The pacemaker lead used in the surgery was a Class III, PMA medical device. Shortly before plaintiff’s surgery, Medtronic had submitted the lead for supplemental pre-market approval. The approval was granted on March 10, 2004. Id. at *1. Ten years later, plaintiff had to undergo explant surgery due to a fractured lead and then filed a products liability suit. Id. at *2. In addition to standard claims based on failure to warn and design defect, plaintiff alleged that the lead had not received FDA approval at the time of the initial procedure, which was not disclosed to plaintiff or his surgeon. Id.

Continue Reading A Twist on PMA Preemption

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

When we last talked about Shuker v. Smith & Nephew PLC, No. 13-6158 (E.D. Pa.), it was with high praise for the court’s decision tossing out almost all claims as preempted and any non-preempted claims for being inadequately pleaded. Our post on that decision is here. The court gave plaintiff a second chance to re-plead the non-preempted claims, which he did. Defendant again moved to dismiss and this time it was granted with prejudice. Shuker, 2016 WL 5461900 (E.D. Pa. Sep. 29, 2016).

Plaintiff underwent hip replacement surgery. For that surgery, plaintiff’s surgeon opted to use defendant’s R3 hip replacement system, but also used a component, the metal liner, from defendant’s BHR hip resurfacing system. Admittedly, an off-label use. Plaintiff suffered complications that required multiple revision surgeries. Id. at *3.

In its original decision, the court’s leave to amend went only to parallel claims based on allegations of off-label promotion. Id. at *1. Those claims were for “tortious misconduct based on off-label promotion” and fraud. Id. at *4. Plaintiff cites to a single press release to support his allegation that defendant “actively marketed” the metal liner as an option for the R3 system “in a way that led” doctors to believe the liner was a component of the R3 system and safe to use with the R3 system. Id.

Continue Reading Hip Implant Off-Label Promotion Follow-Up

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

If you’re even remotely interested in the topic of preemption in Pre-Market Approved (PMA) medical devices that were used in an off-label manner, simply search this blog for our Infuse cases. There are dozens and almost all are complete victories for the defense. What occasionally survives are fraud or misrepresentation claims, although they have a tough time meeting the heightened pleading standard of Rule 9(b), or failure to warn claims where a court recognizes failure to submit adverse events to the FDA as parallel to a state law duty to warn physicians. As you’ll easily see from our prior writings, we don’t understand that parallelism at all.

The most recent Infuse victory strikes a blow at each and every attempt by plaintiffs to circumvent, dodge, sidestep, and elude preemption and pleadings standards. And with each by-pass blocked, plaintiffs’ claims had nowhere to go.

As a quick refresher, Infuse is a medical device used to stimulate bone growth in spinal fusion surgeries. It is a multi-component device that received FDA PMA approval for use in single-level, anterior, lumbar surgeries. Aaron v. Medtronic, Inc., — F. Supp.3d –, 2016 WL 5242957, *1-2 (W.D. Ohio Sep. 22, 2016). Aaron is actually a consolidation of the claims of several hundred plaintiffs who alleged they were injured by their surgeon’s use of the Infuse device in an off-label manner. Specifically, they allege the device was either implanted without all of its component parts, implanted posteriorly, implanted at multiple levels, or implanted in their cervical or thoracic spines. Id. at *2. Plaintiffs’ causes of action are fraud/misrepresentation, strict liability failure to warn, strict liability design defect, negligence, and breach of express and implied warranties. Id. Defendants moved to dismiss all claims on several grounds, including most predominantly preemption.

Before getting to the substantive analysis, the court had to consider what pleadings standard to apply. Wait. Isn’t it TwIqbal? What’s the issue? The answer is the Seventh Circuit decision in Bausch v. Stryker. The Aaron plaintiffs alleged that they did not need to plead the specific federal law or regulations that defendant allegedly violated because medical device products liability cases should have a “more permissive” review standard. Id. at *3. Plaintiffs got that idea from Bausch which held that particularity in pleading the specific FDA regulations violated was not necessary due to much of the “critical information” being kept confidential. Id. at *3-4. Many courts disagree with Bausch, including the Sixth Circuit which held in a non-medical device case that a “natural imbalance of information” does not warrant lowering Rule 8’s pleading standards. Id. at *4. The discovery process cannot be used to find sufficient factual support for plaintiffs’ pleadings after the fact. So, Aaron applies TwIqbal, not some watered down version (although the court does state that some of plaintiffs’ claims might not have withstood application of that lesser standard).

Continue Reading Another Slam Dunk Infuse Win – Preemption and More

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

It’s been awhile since we’ve posted about PMA preemption in an Infusion case – but that litigation continues to make good law.  This time in Minnesota state court which fortunately took a lot of its cues from strong federal law.  In Stiltner v. Medtronic Inc., 2016 WL 4005471 (Minn.Dist.Ct. Jul. 25, 2016) the court dismissed all of plaintiffs’ claims as preempted and while the dismissal is without prejudice, the court laid down tough pleading standards for plaintiff to meet if he wants to try a comeback.

Plaintiff had an Infusion pain pump installed and that particular pump model was recalled about one year later.  Three years after the recall, plaintiff began experiencing complications which necessitated revision and re-implantation surgeries.  Id. at *1.   Plaintiff brought claims for manufacturing defects, failure to warn, negligence, breach of express and implied warranties, and violations of the Minnesota Consumer Fraud Act.  Id.  Because the Infusion pain pump was Pre-Marketed Approved (“PMA”) by the FDA, it is subject to both Riegel express preemption and Buckman implied preemption.  Therefore, in response to defendants’ motion to dismiss, plaintiff had to demonstrate that his claims fit within the “narrow gap” left open between Riegel and Buckman – emphasis on the “narrow” part.  To pass through, plaintiff needs to be suing for conduct that violates the FDCA (the state law claim must parallel device-specific regulations to survive express preemption) but not suing solely because the conduct violates the FDCA (such a claim would be impliedly preempted).  Id. at *4.

Plaintiff attempted to overcome preemption by relying on the recall and by citing to certain FDA actions such as warning letters issued to defendants to establish that defendants violated Current Good Manufacturing Practices (“CGMP”) regulations.  Id. at *1.  But in assessing the sufficiency of plaintiff’s pleadings, the court concluded that plaintiff simply surmised that “because of the [FDA warnings] and Defendants’ . . . recall of the Device, Defendants must have violated federal regulations which must have resulted in injury to Plaintiff.”  Id. at *6.  “Must have” is about on par with “would of, should of, could of.”  Not nearly enough.

Continue Reading In Minnesota PMA Preemption Requires Plaintiffs to be Specific, Very Specific

This post comes from the non Reed Smith side of the blog.

 

Minnesota is one of our most beautiful states and the setting for much of the terrific TV anthology series Fargo. But Minnesota is also home to a significant number of well-reasoned preemption decisions. While we’ll concede that beautiful lakes and Fargo are (way) more interesting and entertaining than preemption law, this is a drug and device law blog. So today’s visit to Minnesota will offer you the wonderful opportunity to review a well-reasoned preemption decision, not to enjoy a lazy, scenic day on a lake or a mesmerizing, voyeuristic view of fake true-crime drama. You can visit Minnesota and its lakes on your own time. And we’ll certainly talk about Fargo once season three starts next year. But, for now, you get Lutz Cummings v. Medtronic, Inc., 2016 WL 3082314 (Minn. D. Ct. May 31, 2016) and preemption.

In Lutz, one of the plaintiffs had complications from a pain-pump implant and filed a complaint in Minnesota state court alleging a host of state-law claims. Since the pain pump is a PMA device, plaintiffs’ state-law claims are preempted unless they can properly state parallel violation claims. The court effectively described how express and implied preemption work together to create a near air-tight seal that leaves plaintiffs only a “narrow gap” into which try to fit such claims. Their claims must be premised on conduct that violates FDA regulations but cannot seek to directly enforce those regulations. Rather, their state-law claims must be such that they would give rise to a recovery even if the FDA regulations didn’t exist:

Narrow Gap Between Express and Implied Preemption. State law claims involving an FDA-approved medical device are expressly and impliedly preempted by federal laws and regulations. A plaintiff may pursue state law claims involving an FDA-approved medical device only to the extent plaintiff can show that such claims escape express and implied federal preemption as contemplated by existing federal regulations and case law. In evaluating an allowable claim, the Minnesota federal district court in Riley v. Cordis Corp., states:

Riegel and Buckman create a narrow gap through which a plaintiff’s state-law claim must fit if it is to escape express or implied preemption. The plaintiff must be suing for conduct that violates the FDCA (or else his claim is expressly preempted by section 360 k(a)), but the plaintiff must not be suing because the conduct violates the FDCA (such a claim would be impliedly preempted under Buckman). For a state-law claim to survive, then, the claim must be premised on conduct that both (1) violates the FDCA and (2) would give rise to a recovery under state law even in the absence of the FDCA.

625 F. Supp.2d 769, 777 (D. Minn. 2009).

Lutz, 2016 WL 3082314, at *4 (all emphasis in original). Not only did plaintiffs have to deal with the limited availability of parallel violation claims, they also had to allege facts that made those claims plausible under the pleading requirements of TwIqbal. With this construct in place, the court set about dismissing plaintiffs’ attempted parallel violation claims one at a time.

Continue Reading Minnesota Gives Us Another Excellent Preemption Decision

This post comes from the Cozen O’Connor side of the blog.

Last week, the New York Appellate Division upheld a preemption decision in a medical device case involving alleged off-label promotion. Pitkow v. Lautin, 2016 WL 2746469 (N.Y. App. Div. May 12, 2016). While the Appellate Division’s opinion was only three-paragraphs long, it affirmed the trial court’s ruling in every respect, making the trial court’s lengthier opinion that much more important. We obtained a copy, and here it is.

The plaintiff’s claims were based on complications that arose after her use of an injectable product, Sculptra, for cosmetic purposes, which was an off-label use. Plaintiff sued the doctors who injected her and the manufacturers of Sculptra. Among other things, she alleged that the manufacturers had improperly promoted off-label use of Sculptra.

After discovery, the manufacturers moved for summary judgment, arguing that all of plaintiff’s claims were preempted. The trial court agreed and, quite effectively, walked through the manner in which both Riegel and Buckman preempted plaintiff’s claims as well as the deficiencies of plaintiff’s attempts at parallel violation claims.

First up was Riegel preemption, since Sculptra was approved under the FDA’s PMA process:

Sculptra is a Class III medical device that was undeniably approved through the PMA process. What is more, all of the plaintiff’s claims against the [manufacturers] regard the safety and effectiveness of the device or require a finding that Sculptra’s design, labeling, and/or manufacturing process should have differed from that approved by the FDA via the PMA process . . . . Thus, the claims are preempted by the federal law.

Slip. Op. at 8-9.

Continue Reading New York Appellate Division Rejects Parallel Violation Claims Based on Off-Label Promotion