US court rules for Medtronic, bars some state suits

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The U.S. Supreme Court handed a victory to Medtronic Inc on Wednesday, ruling that patients cannot sue medical-device manufacturers in state court over harm from a device that has approval from federal regulators.

By an 8-1 vote, the court ruled a 1976 law creating federal safety oversight for medical devices bars state-law claims challenging safety or effectiveness of devices that have won premarket approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The decision was the Supreme Court's first ruling on the legal effect of the FDA's approval of a medical device on liability lawsuits, Medtronic said.

The ruling could benefit other device makers, who have argued that the FDA's judgment that a product is safe and effective should protect companies from being sued for liability in state court.

The Medtronic case involved a New York man who was injured in 1996 when a doctor inflated a balloon catheter during an artery-clearing procedure.

Medtronic has said the doctor in the case used the catheter contrary to labeling instructions and in a patient for whom it was not recommended. The company no longer makes that specific catheter.

A federal trial court in Albany, New York, dismissed the lawsuit, finding the patient was not entitled to state law remedies because of the FDA's prior approval of the device.

A U.S. appeals court agreed that the lawsuit was pre-empted by federal law, and the Supreme Court upheld that decision.

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