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Lake v. Kardjian

New York Supreme Court, Madison County


December 17, 2008

WILLIAM D. LAKE AND LINDA JEAN LAKE, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
PAUL M. KARDJIAN, M.D., INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AN AGENT, OFFICER AND/OR EMPLOYEE OF CNY UROLOGY, P.C., AND AS AN AGENT, OFFICER AND/OR EMPLOYEE OF UNITED STATES PROVIDERS, LLC, BASHAR OMARBASHA, M.D., INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AN AGENT, OFFICER AND/OR EMPLOYEE OF CNY UROLOGY, P.C., AND AS AN AGENT, OFFICER AND/OR EMPLOYEE OF UNITED SATES PROVIDERS, LLC, AMIN E. EL-HASSAN, M.D.,, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AN AGENT, OFFICER, AND/OR EMPLOYEE OF UNITED SERVICE PROVIDERS, LLC; WAEL F. MUAKKASSA, M.D., INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AN AGENT, OFFICER AND/OR EMPLOYEE OF UNITED SERVICE PROVIDERS, LLC; KIT THURSTON, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AN AGENT, OFFICER, AND/OR EMPLOYEE OF CNY UROLOGY, P.C., CNY UROLOGY, P.C., BY AND THROUGH ITS AGENTS, OFFICERS AND/OR EMPLOYEES, UNITED SERVICE PROVIDERS, LLC, BY AND THROUGH ITS AGENTS, OFFICERS AND/OR EMPLOYEES; KEVIN HISCOCK AND UROLOGIX, INC., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Phillip R. Rumsey, J.

Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.

This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the printed Official Reports.

Defendant Urologix, Inc. manufactures the Targis System, which utilizes microwave energy to heat and destroy hyperplastic prostate tissue to treat the symptoms caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia, or an enlarged prostate, in a procedure known as transurethral microwave therapy (TUMT). On July 11, 2001, defendant Dr. Kardjian used the Targis System to perform TUMT on plaintiff William D. Lake.*fn1 Following the procedure, plaintiff continued to experience problems with incomplete voiding and obstruction of his urine flow. Within a few weeks, he began to complain of symptoms of incontinence. Dr. Kardjian determined that plaintiff's urethra had been damaged, as evidenced by the presence of necrotic tissue, and that his urinary sphincter had also been damaged. Plaintiff represents that he thereafter underwent numerous surgeries and procedures, in an unsuccessful attempt to treat his incontinence. He commenced this action seeking compensation for his injuries, in relevant part, asserting five separate causes of action under New York law against Urologix, which now moves for summary judgment seeking dismissal of all claims asserted against it.*fn2

Urologix notes that the Targis System is regulated as a Class III device under the Medical Device Amendments of 1976 (MDA) (21 USC §360c et seq.) to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 (FDCA) (21 USC §301 et seq.) and argues, therefore, that plaintiffs' claims are barred in their entirety by the doctrine of federal preemption. The MDA imposes a detailed regime for federal regulation of medical devices, to be administered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and contains an express preemption clause (see 21 USC §360k[a]). Resolution of defendant's motion turns largely upon the recent United States Supreme Court decision defining the scope of state law claims that are preempted by the MDA, Riegel v Medtronic, Inc., ___ US ___; 128 S.Ct. 999, 1004 [2008].

The MDA establishes three levels of oversight for medical devices, depending on the risk of illness or injury they pose to the public.*fn3 The devices receiving the most oversight are those in Class III, which must receive premarket approval from the FDA before they may be marketed to the public. This approval regime is a "rigorous" process (id. at 1004 [citation omitted]), requiring that a manufacturer submit detailed information typically a multivolume application about the design, manufacture, safety, and effectiveness of the device. This process includes FDA review of all proposed labeling for the device. Once a device receives premarket approval, the MDA forbids the manufacturer from making any changes in design, specifications, manufacturing processes, labeling, or any other attribute that would affect safety or effectiveness of the device, unless it first obtains FDA approval. The Targis System received premarket approval in 1997.

Riegel holds that claims asserted under New York law for strict liability, breach of implied warranties, and negligence in the design, testing, inspection, distribution, labeling, marketing, and sale of a Class III device which receives PMA are preempted by the MDA (see Riegel, 128 S.Ct. at 1006). The Supreme Court further noted that the MDA would likewise preempt "a jury determination that the FDA-approved labeling for a [Class III device] violated a state common-law requirement for additional warnings" (id. at 1011).*fn4 Thus, after Riegel, the only claim asserted by plaintiff against Urologix not clearly preempted by the MDA is his breach of express warranty claim (see id. at 1006 n 2; Parker v Stryker Corp., ___ F. Supp.2d ___; 2008 WL4716879 at *4 [D. Colo. 2008]).

However, a breach of express warranty claim based upon FDA approved statements in product labeling and advertising is preempted by the MDA, because such a claim would impose requirements different from, or in addition to, the federal requirements, potentially resulting in the imposition of liability on a manufacturer who has fully complied with federal law (Carter v Novartis Consumer Health, Inc., ___ F. Supp.2d ___, 2008 WL 4694585 at *7 *8 [C.D. Cal. 2008] [interpreting the preemption clause set forth at 21 USC §379r, which is substantially identical to the MDA's preemption clause set forth at 21 §360k(a)]; accord Parker, 2008 WL4716879 at *4; see also Rattay v Medtronic, Inc., 482 F. Supp.2d 746, 762 763 [N.D. West Virginia 2007]). To state a viable claim that a manufacturer has breached an express warranty one that will escape federal preemption requires that a plaintiff identify specific representations of the manufacturer which exceed the scope of the FDA approved statements, thereby establishing a contractual obligation voluntarily entered into by the manufacturer (Carter, 2008 WL 4694585 at *7 *8; Parker, 2008 WL4716879 at *4; Rattay, 482 F. Supp.2d at 762 763). The only competent evidence before the court on this motion relating to an express warranty is deposition testimony of plaintiff and Linda Lake, that they were provided with pamphlets and a videotape by Dr. Kardjian (Transcript of Examination Before Trial of William Lake and Linda Lake, attached at Exhibit R to the Affidavit of Edward D. Laird, Jr., sworn to March 17, 2008 [the Laird Affidavit], at pp. 35 40 and 85 86). Neither the pamphlets nor the videotape (or a transcript thereof) have been provided to the court, notwithstanding the fact that plaintiff's counsel apparently received the videotape during the course of discovery (see Transcript of Examination Before Trial of Timothy Parker, attached as Exhibit T to the Laird Affidavit, at p. 35). Plaintiff has not identified any specific statements by Urologix which would constitute an express warranty, and has thereby failed to establish the existence of a claim which would escape federal preemption and survive this motion to dismiss.*fn5

Rather than claim that there is no preemption under the facts presented, plaintiff argues that the failure of Urologix to report incidents in which the Targis System may have caused or contributed to a serious injury deprives Urologix of the benefit of federal preemption.*fn6 This argument fails, because claims that a manufacturer has violated the MDA in some respect do not diminish or impair the applicability of the doctrine of federal preemption. In fact, such claims are impliedly preempted by federal law, because enforcement of the FDCA, including the MDA, is the sole province of the federal government (see Buckman Co. v Plaintiffs' Legal Committee, 531 US 341, 348 349 [2001]); there are no private causes of actions for noncompliance with the MDA (id. at 349 n 4). While not raised by plaintiff, the alleged failure of Urologix to comply with the MDA's reporting requirements does not constitute a "parallel claim", which would escape preemption (Riegel, 128 S.Ct. at 1011), because such an allegation would merely be an attempt to recast plaintiff's state law claims as violations of federal statutes (see Parker, 2008 WL4716879 at *3 [an FDA finding that a Class III device is "adulterated" withing the meaning of 21 USC §351(h) is insufficient to support a parallel claim under the MDA]).

Linda Lake's claims against Urologix, being derivative of plaintiff's claims, are likewise preempted by the MDA.

Urologix's motion for summary judgment, dismissing the complaint against it, is hereby granted.

This decision shall constitute the order ofthe court.


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