Shook Obtains Back-to-Back Wins for Medtronic In Product Liability Cases

Shook teams have obtained back-to-back wins for Medtronic, manufacturer of surgical and medical devices, persuading federal courts in Michigan and Texas to dismiss product liability claims against the company.


In December, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Michigan granted Medtronic’s motion to dismiss the claims of a plaintiff who alleged he suffered non-superficial burns from an electrosurgical generator used during orthopedic surgery, holding the complaint failed to allege facts sufficient to state claims for negligence or implied warranty. Abdulkarim v. Medtronic, Inc., No. 17-12898 (S.D. Mich., December 12, 2017). Not only did the complaint fail to allege any specific defect, the court said, but it also failed to allege facts to support causation. Although the plaintiff also claimed that Medtronic failed to warn of the risks of using the device, Michigan follows the sophisticated user doctrine, and the court found the complaint failed to allege any facts to establish that his physicians did not know the generator had the potential to cause burns or that Medtronic knew the doctors didn’t know about the potential for burns.  Partner Kelly Bieri, with Associates Amanda O’Neill and Aaron Craig, represented Medtronic.


Next, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas dismissed with prejudice product liability claims relating to Medtronic’s surgical stapler. Rittinger v. The Davis Clinic, No. 17-626 (S.D. Texas, February 1, 2018). The plaintiff alleged that design defects in the stapler malfunctioned during her Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery, leading to leaks at the staple line that required emergency surgery, a medically induced coma and protracted hospitalization. The plaintiff also developed gangrene that required amputation of her legs. The medical providers moved to dismiss for lack of diversity jurisdiction; rather than join their motion and risk litigating the case twice, Shook decided to fight the case on the merits, arguing the claims against Medtronic should be resolved separately from the non-diverse claims.


The plaintiff had filed suit in February 2017, outside Texas’ two-year product liability statute of limitations, arguing that the period should be tolled during the period of her coma because it prevented her from discovering the cause of her injuries. Shook moved to dismiss, arguing that the complaint was barred on its face by the statute of limitations and distinguished the plaintiff’s attempts to argue that the nature of her claims was inherently undiscoverable. The court agreed, and later dismissed the remaining medical defendants for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Partners Bryan Pratt and Kelly Bieri, with Associate Iain Kennedy, represented Medtronic.