Legal Ethics

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

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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