Medtronic Rejected by Supreme Court on Paraplegic Suit

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to stop a lawsuit against Medtronic Inc. by a man who was rendered a paraplegic after surgeons implanted a system that infuses pain medication into the spine.

The justices today left intact a federal appeals court decision letting the suit go forward. The suit accuses Medtronic of failing to tell federal regulators about previous problems with the SynchroMed EL pump and catheter.

Minneapolis-based Medtronic argued that patients can’t use state law to sue device makers for allegedly violating a duty under federal law. The appeals court rejected that argument, allowing the suit by Richard Stengel and his wife under Arizona state law. Richard Stengel has since died.

Previous Supreme Court decisions have interpreted the federal law that governs medical-device approval as limiting the types of suits patients can press. In a 2008 ruling, the court said device makers can’t be subjected to additional requirements under state product-liability law.

That ruling left room for patients to sue under state rules that are “parallel” to federal requirements. The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the claims by the Stengels met that test and could go forward.

The Supreme Court acted after receiving a recommendation from the Obama administration not to hear the case.

The case is Medtronic v. Stengel, 12-1351.

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