20 February 2008 - The Supreme Court today issued three major decisions relating to the federal preemption of state law, and Mayer Brown lawyers were on the winning side in each case. The three decisions—in Riegel v. Medtronic, Inc. (No. 06-179), in Rowe v. New Hampshire Motor Transport Association (No. 06-457), and in Preston v. Ferrer (No. 06-1463)—directly affect medical device manufacturers, interstate shippers, and all companies that enter arbitration agreements, but are also tremendously important for all businesses that confront state-law requirements in federally regulated areas.

Riegel v. Medtronic

In Riegel v. Medtronic, Inc., the Court ruled that the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act preempts state-law tort claims challenging the design, manufacture, and labeling of medical devices that are granted pre-market approval by the Food and Drug Administration.  Riegel is an important victory for medical device manufacturers and for patients whose lives depend upon access to their devices.  The ruling ensures that the FDA's expert determination that a life-saving medical device should be available under specified conditions will not be thwarted by lay juries, which inevitably focus on the injuries allegedly suffered by individual plaintiffs without regard to the significant benefits conferred by the device on the many patients who are not represented in court.  Mayer Brown attorneys Ken Geller and Andrew Tauber were co-counsel to medical device manufacturer Medtronic in this case.

Preston v. Ferrer

In Preston v. Ferrer, the Supreme Court held that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempts a state law that required disputes under the California Talent Agencies Act to be resolved in the first instance by an administrative agency notwithstanding the parties' agreement to arbitrate. Preston is an important reaffirmation of the federal policy favoring arbitration.  The decision makes clear that a state may not impose an extra-contractual administrative exhaustion requirement on agreements to arbitrate.  Moreover, it reaffirms that the FAA not only is applicable in state court, but also preempts contrary provisions of state law.  Mayer Brown attorneys Andy Pincus, Evan Tager, and Jack Wilson filed an amicus brief in support of the petitioner on behalf of CTIA-The Wireless Association.

Rowe v. New Hampshire Motor Transport Association

In Rowe v. New Hampshire Motor Transport Association, the Court held that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAAA) preempts two provisions of a Maine law regulating the shipment of tobacco to Maine consumers.  Rowe adopts a broad view of FAAAA preemption and is therefore of significance to motor carriers that rely on the FAAAA for protection from burdensome state regulations, and, because Rowe reaffirms that the FAAAA's preemptive effect parallels that of the Airline Deregulation Act, the decision is also of significance to the airline industry.  Mayer Brown attorneys Evan Tager and Jack Wilson filed an amicus brief in support of the respondent on behalf of the American Trucking Associations and the Chamber of Commerce of the United States.