Federal Court Boots Medtronic Insulin Pump Recall Litigation to State Court
Concluding that the court lacked jurisdiction, United States District Court judge Dolly M. Gee remanded a case involving Medtronic’s recently recalled 600 series insulin infusion pumps to the California state court where it originated. The case, Plum, et al. v. Medtronic, was originally filed in California Superior Court in Los Angeles on behalf of 7 plaintiffs – all Type I diabetics – who allegedly suffered injuries relating to defective retainer rings on the insulin reservoir chamber which caused either over- or under-infusion of insulin. In February 2020 the FDA ordered a recall of more than 300,000 Medtronic 630G and 670G model pumps due to “broken or missing” retainer rings. It was reported that Medtronic had received over 26,000 complaints which included 2,175 reports of injuries and 1 death.
Medtronic had removed the case to federal court claiming both diversity and federal question jurisdiction and then moved to sever the plaintiffs claiming that one – a resident of California – was fraudulently misjoined to destroy diversity jurisdiction. The company also argued that the court had jurisdiction because plaintiffs’ claims are preempted under federal law thereby implicating federal question jurisdiction. The court rejected both contentions.
While noting that the issue of misjoinder in a state case is more properly addressed to the state court, the court nevertheless addressed Medtronic’s argument that the joinder of the plaintiffs in Plum was so “egregious” as to amount to fraud saying:
Plaintiffs bought nearly identical types of insulin pumps from the same manufacturer and suffered the same type of injury as a result of the same alleged defect. These commonalities support the conclusion that Plaintiffs’ claims “arose out of the same series of transactions or occurrences” – namely a manufacturing defect – thus satisfying the first prong of joinder analysis under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20. In addition, because there need only be “some questions of fact and law common to all of the plaintiffs” to satisfy the second prong of the joinder analysis, this prong is also satisfied by Plaintiffs’ allegations. Thus, Plaintiffs’ claims cannot be severed on this basis even if the Ninth Circuit adopted the theory of fraudulent misjoinder. The California citizenship of both Weisshar and Minimed precludes this Court from exercising jurisdiction based on party diversity.
The claim of federal question jurisdiction based upon the affirmative defense of preemption was easily dispatched by the court who observed that “in the Ninth Circuit, it is “settled law” that Plaintiffs’ anticipation of a preemption defense does not create federal question jurisdiction.”
In the absence of subject matter jurisdiction, the court remanded the case to the Superior Court.
WILLIAMS CEDAR Partner KEVIN HAVERTY, along with JULIA REED ZAIC and LAURA SMITH HATCH of HEAVISIDE REED ZAIC in Newport Beach, CA represent the plaintiffs.