Help reverse the medical device “tort reform” by the Supreme Court that has left thousands of injured patients without the right to sue, and puts many more patients at risk! 

The following announcement and open letter to Congress was organized by the Campaign to Stop Corporate Immunity, a coalition of consumer and advocacy organizations (including PAL, Community Catalyst, AARP, Consumers Union, and many others) working to restore patient’s rights to sue manufacturers when they are harmed by dangerous or defective medical devices.

——————————————————————————— Medical Device Patient Lobby Day

On March 31st, Medical Device Patients from around the country will travel to Washington, DC and ask Congress to pass the Medical Device Safety Act.  Please click here to learn more about the Faces of Preemption.  Following is the Patients’ Letter to Congress:

Dear Members of Congress,

Because we have had a defective medical device implanted in our bodies, we are here today asking Congress to support HR 1346/S 540, the Medical Device Safety Act.

In February of 2008, the Supreme Court decided that medical device manufacturers cannot be held accountable for producing dangerous and defective products. They felt that FDA’s approval of a medical device warranted this immunity. It should not. The Medical Device Safety Act will return our rights that have been taken away by fixing this problem and putting the law back the way it was just over a year ago.

Most of us here today have received a Medtronic Implanted Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD) that had a defective Sprint Fidelis lead attaching it to our hearts.   This lead has malfunctioned causing patients like us to suffer unnecessary shocks that can only be compared to getting kicked in the chest by a horse.

While these are meant to be life saving devices, some of us are here representing loved ones who lost their lives as a direct result of their defects. Medtronic knew this lead was faulty and failed to report problems to the FDA.  As a result, hundreds of the defective leads were implanted in heart patients across the country. This was all before they had immunity from lawsuits!  Imagine how reckless they will be with out the checks and balances of our civil justice system. 

If we cannot hold medical device manufacturers accountable for their actions, we cannot pay for our medical care, a cost that will fall to taxpayers. Why should Americans have to finance the medical device industry?

Please, consider us when it comes time to vote on the Medical Device Safety Act, and vote YES for patient safety.



Additional information:

This legislation is needed not only to restore the rights of current patients who have been harmed, but also to safeguard for the safety of future patients who use any prescription medical device. The right to sue manufacturers of faulty or dangerous medical devices helps ensure that manufacturers develop and produce safer devices. For instance, earlier this month, in the case Wyeth v Levine (related to the safety of prescription drugs) the Supreme Court noted that:

State tort suits uncover unknown drug hazards and provide incentives for drug manufacturers to disclose safety risks promptly. They also serve a distinct compensatory function that may motivate injured persons to come forward with information. Failure-to-warn actions, in particular, lend force to the FDCA’s premise that manufacturers, not the FDA, bear primary responsibility for their drug labeling at all times. Thus, the FDA long maintained that state law offers an additional, and important, layer of consumer protection that complements FDA regulation.

Unfortunately the regulation of medical devices by FDA involves some slightly different federal statutes than those related to prescription drugs. Back in the late 70’s, consumers were being harmed by newly available medical devices, and the states had started to regulate.  In this context, Congress enacted the Medical Device Amendments of 1976 in order to create a unified national system of device labeling under federal law. They did so by expressly preempting, or nullifying labeling requirements imposed under state law.

Gradually over the next twenty years, corporations starting broadly asserting federal regulatory law to get immunity from state law consumer protection and product liability statutes. Corporations exploited many such federal laws as a back-door method to achieve a judicial form of “tort reform” which Congress had long denied them.

You may wonder how federal labeling requirements could affect state laws related to product safety? The ‘reasoning’ goes like this. To win a lawsuit, oftentimes a consumer must prove to a jury that the manufacturer of a product failed to provide adequate warnings that would allow the product to be used safely. A jury verdict is a decision, as a matter of law, that a warning was not adequate. Nearly all warnings are contained in the labeling of the product’s packaging. So a jury decision on the adequacy of a warning is regulation of product labeling under state law. Therefore, such jury verdicts concerning medical devices must be preempted by the superior federal laws enacted in 1976.

So, despite a rather clear intent by Congress to preempt state regulation of what a medical device label must disclose, federal court judges started to buy these ‘preemption’ arguments over twenty years later. Then, in February of 2008, the Supreme Court agreed with this reasoning in the case Riegel v. Medtronic (see our blog here). The Court ruled that consumer claims addressing the adequacy of medical device labeling were preempted.

The current Medical Device Safety Act (HR 1346 in the House, S 540 in the Senate) would simply reverse the decision in Riegel v. Medtronic, and narrow, or limit the preemption under federal law to just the regulation of device labeling, and to restore the rights of patients to sue a device manufacturer when they are harmed.  

To help, follow the link below, and urge your Congressperson and both your U.S. Senators to vote for the Medical Device Safety Act, and reverse the tort reform decided by the Supreme Court in Riegel v Medtronic.

Contact your Congressperson here:

Contact your Senators here:

To help your organization sign on in support of this legislation, please contact PAL at

For more information, go to the Campaign to Stop Corporate Immunity website.