Some great news came down today from the Central District of California regarding a transvaginal mesh case that was recently removed to federal court by American Medical Systems, Inc.’s defense attorneys ReedSmith, LLP. Federal judge John F. Walter ordered the case back to the Riverside County Superior Court. (FYI, the picture to the right is not a picture a judge John F. Walter.)
The case—Haston v. American Medical Systems, Inc. (Case No. RIC 1218837)—was filed in Riverside County Superior Court in early late 2012. On February 27, 2013, American Medical Systems unilaterally removed the case to federal court (Case No. ED CV 13-00364-JFW OPx) alleging that the case could be removed based on diversity of citizenship between the plaintiff and defendant American Medical Systems, Inc.
But there was one glaring problem for American Medical Systems; the plaintiff and another named defendant–the doctor who surgically implanted American Medical Systems’ medical device into the plaintiff–were both California citizens, meaning the case did not qualify for removal to federal court.
But that didn’t stop American Medical Systems from unilaterally removing the case to federal court. American Medical Systems based its removal on “fraudulent misjoinder”of the defendant doctor relying on the so-called Tapscott doctrine that came out of the Eleventh Circuit in 1996. (FYI, we are in the Ninth Circuit in California.)
But the federal court wasn’t buying American Medical System’s unilateral removal to federal court. The federal court, without holding a hearing, remanded the case to California state court. The court based its decision on law school 101 analysis, as follows:
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and federal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal by American Medical Systems. Additionally, there is a strong presumption that the federal court does not have jurisdiction. Finally, American Medical System, the party invoking federal jurisdiction, bears the burden of demonstrating that removal to federal court was proper. Because the plaintiff and another defendant in this case (the implanting surgeon) were from California, American Medical Systems could not meet its burden of proof to have the case removed to federal court.
The federal court also dismissed American Medical Systems reliance on the Eleventh Circuit’s so-called Tapscott doctrine, based on Tapscott v. MS Dealer Serv. Corp., 77 F.3d 1353, 1360 (11th Cir. 1996). The court found that the claims by the plaintiff against the California defendant and the vaginal mesh company had a real connection to each other. The plaintiff’s claims involved serious bodily injuries that she suffered as a result of a defendant doctor (and California citizen) surgically implanting American Medical Systems’ medical device known as the MiniArc® Sling System. American Medical Systems designed, manufactured, marketed and distributed the MiniArc® Sling System to ostensibly help women suffering with stress urinary incontinence. Accordingly, the federal court found that American Medical Systems failed to demonstrate that the parties in the case were completely diverse.
This is the first of six cases that American Medical Systems removed to federal court in February 2013. I’ll update the other five cases as the various federal district courts decide our requests to remand.