Lawmakers Seek to Return Right to Sue Device Makers

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On the same day last month that a federal judge in St. Paul threw out hundreds of lawsuits against the maker of a faulty heart device, a man entered a nearby hospital to have one of those flawed products surgically removed.

The risky operation went terribly wrong. As doctors extracted the device, a thin electronic cable, from the patient’s heart, a vessel was punctured, causing extensive bleeding. The 33-year-old patient, Mark Turnidge, died two days later, leaving behind a wife and two young sons.

“They told me he had suffered massive brain damage,” said his wife, Wendy Turnidge.

She is considering suing the doctors, as well as the device’s maker, Medtronic, which she said bore blame for her husband’s death. But a Supreme Court decision last year stands as a barrier against suing medical device companies — an obstacle that some members of Congress want to remove.

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