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Legal Ethics

Plaintiffs Question Judge’s Son’s Law Firm Link in Medtronic Case

Posted Feb 13, 2009 1:04 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle says he didn't have any idea that his son's law firm had performed work, in unrelated matters, for a defendant in a massive case he was hearing.

But after plaintiff lawyers found out about Fredrikson & Byron's connection to the litigation against Medtronic Inc., some said yesterday that they plan to pursue it as a potential conflict issue, reports the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.).

In a ruling five weeks ago, Kyle, who sits in Minneapolis, dismissed all of the nearly 700 cases in the complex multidistrict litigation, which asserts product liability claims concerning a heart device. The claims can't be brought under state law, Kyle determined, because federal law regulating medical devices pre-empts state law.

"The losers may now be able to ask that the case be reinstated and sent to a new judge," says professor Stephen Gillers of New York University School of Law. However, they would have to establish, under a "tough test," that "that a Medtronic loss would have a substantially negative effect on the son's firm."

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