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Will My Medical Malpractice Case Be a State or Federal Case?

Does it Matter if My Malpractice Case is State or Federal?

Where your medical malpractice case is heard can make a big difference in the outcome. Most medical malpractice claims are heard in state court. Here in Cleveland, that means a local jury with an elected judge who is accountable to the people. But some cases may instead be heard in federal court, where judges are not elected–they are appointed by the President of the United States–and juries are often drawn from a much wider geographic area.


Judge: Use of FDA-Approved Medical Device Does Not Justify Transferring State Medical Malpractice Case to Federal Court

Medical malpractice defendants often prefer federal court for a number of reasons. And when certain conditions are met, a defendant can remove–that is, transfer–a plaintiff’s medical malpractice case from state to federal court. The plaintiff, however, may ask a federal judge to remand (return) the case to state court if the legal conditions justifying the removal have not been met.

For example, an Ohio federal judge recently remanded a medical malpractice case against Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Medtronic USA. The underlying lawsuit involves complications arising from a pacemaker that was implanted in one of the plaintiffs. The lawsuit maintains there were complications due to the defendants’ negligent care.

Medtronic removed the case to federal court on the grounds the plaintiffs’ claims involve federal law, specifically the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). Medtronic produced the pacemaker at issue. The FDCA governs the design and manufacture of such devices. As such, Medtronic argued deciding the plaintiffs’ malpractice and related claims would “implicate significant federal issues” of law. In addition, Medtronic noted the FDCA preempts and state-law claim that “would impose a requirement” for pacemaker safety that differs from FDA regulations.

U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi rejected Medtronic’s arguments and granted the plaintiffs’ motion to remand the case to Ohio state court. For one thing, Judge Lioi explained, the plaintiffs are not suing the defendants under the FDCA. Indeed, the FDCA does not permit private individuals to file such lawsuits. Nor does federal law prohibit state courts from awarding damages for violation of FDA regulations.

More to the point, the lawsuit itself revolves around common questions of state law, notably medical malpractice. The mere fact the alleged malpractice involved an FDA-regulated pacemaker does not automatically convert the case into one of federal jurisdiction, Judge Lioi said. If the court adopted Medtronic’s position, she noted, it would “open federal courts’ doors to any medical malpractice case involving an FDA-approved medical device.”

Contact the Cleveland Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Tittle & Perlmuter Today

It is important to understand there are some medical malpractice cases that can be heard in federal court despite the plaintiff’s objections. But the burden is on the defendant to justify such a transfer. An experienced Cleveland medical malpractice attorney can help ensure the courts respect your rights when it comes to deciding where you wish to pursue your case against a negligent healthcare provider.