Tampa Federal Court Remands Medical Device Products Liability Case Back to Sarasota County

The Middle District of Florida in Tampa has remanded a products liability case back to state court. In Wier v. DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., a man was allegedly hurt by a medical device that was surgically implanted in his hip. As a result, he filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the device and the distributor in the Twelfth Judicial Circuit in Sarasota County. In the man’s case, he asserted the two companies were negligent, failed to warn him, committed breach of an implied warranty, and should be held strictly liable for his harm. He also claimed that the medical device manufacturer was guilty of breach of express warranty.

Although the device manufacturer hailed from a different state, the defendant distributor was a Florida citizen for purposes of diversity jurisdiction. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), a lawsuit that was filed in state court may be removed to federal court if the parties are citizens of different states, and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. In general, any doubts regarding whether federal jurisdiction is proper should be decided in favor of a lawsuit proceeding in state court. Despite this, the manufacturer successfully removed the case to the Middle District of Florida based on diversity of citizenship.

After the case was removed, the allegedly injured man filed a motion for remand with the federal court. According to the man, jurisdiction in state court was proper because the defendants were not diverse. Additionally, the injured man claimed that United States Supreme Court precedent in Mensing bars federal preemption in claims that are filed against a medical device distributor. In response, the medical device manufacturer argued that the man’s claims against the distributor are preempted under Mensing, and the non-diverse distributor was fraudulently joined in the lawsuit merely to defeat federal jurisdiction.

After examining the facts of Mensing, the Middle District of Florida held that the applicability of the Supreme Court’s holding to the current case was questionable. Because of this, the federal court applied the presumption against federal jurisdiction in favor of the allegedly injured man. Next, the court analyzed whether the man successfully pleaded a strict liability claim against the medical device distributor under Florida law. Since the Middle District of Florida determined that the man was successful in asserting a “colorable claim” against the distributor, the federal court held the case should be decided by a state court. Finally, the Tampa court remanded the products liability lawsuit back to the Sarasota County court in which it was originally filed.

The procedural, scheduling, and other rules that govern a lawsuit are often quite different in state and federal court. Sometimes, this can be confusing to individuals who are not accustomed to navigating the legal system. If you were injured by an unsafe medical device or other product in Miami, you should have an experienced products liability attorney on your side to help you protect your rights. To schedule a free confidential consultation with a dedicated advocate, do not hesitate to contact Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. through our website, or give us a call today at (305) 448-8585.

Additional Resources:

Wier v. DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., Dist. Court, MD Florida 2014

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