In 1996, a catheter burst during Charles Riegel's angioplasty. Riegel and his wife filed a product liability complaint against the catheter's manufacturer, Medtronic, Inc. A federal district court dismissed the complaint, holding that the Medical Device Amendments ("MDA") preempted most of the claims. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal and the Riegels appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The MDA generally forbids states from imposing requirements on devices that received premarket approval from the Food and Drug Administration ("FDA"). Because the complaint depends on state law, Medtronic argues that letting it proceed would impose state requirements, usurp the power of the FDA, and stifle innovation in the medical field. Mrs. Riegel, who was substituted as plaintiff after her husband died, argues that while Congress gave the FDA power to regulate medical devices, it never meant to stop private citizens from suing negligent manufacturers. The outcome in this case will likely depend on the Supreme Court's style of statutory interpretation as well as its beliefs about the best way to manage the complex world of medical devices.
Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties
In 1996, Dr. Eric Roccario attempted to unclog a "diffusely diseased" and "heavily calcified" artery supplying Charles Riegel's heart. When several attempts using other devices failed, Dr.