Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Thompson Case Brief

Summary of Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Thompson
478 U.S. 804 (1986)

Facts: Ps, husband and wife, brought action against D, a pharmaceutical company. Ps alleged that their children suffered birth defects because the wife took drug manufactured by D. Ps brought claim based on negligence, breach of warranty, strict liability and fraud. Ps also claimed that D violated FDCA. D removed the action to federal court based on federal question jurisdiction. Ps claimed that the removal was improper and moved to remand the case back to state court.

Procedure: Trial court denied Ps’ motion to remand back to state court and the sixth circuit reversed.

Issue: Was there sufficient federal question jurisdiction for the federal court to hear the case [there was no diversity jurisdiction]?

Holding: No

Rationale: The Congress never intended to create a private cause of action under FDCA. The fact that there may be a violation of FDCA by D does not give Ps the private federal cause of action under this statute. Therefore, the removal from the state court was improper and the federal court did not have subject matter jurisdiction.

Notes: Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Federal courts can have subject matter jurisdiction over cases either by diversity of jurisdiction route or by federal question route. This case dealt with federal question jurisdiction. This case rules that the mere fact that there may be a violation of some federal law, when congress didn’t intend to create private cause of action under that law, does not establish federal question jrx.

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