Medtronic to pay $114.1 million to settle defibrillator suits

  • Article by: JANET MOORE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 21, 2007 - 7:32 PM

Medtronic Inc. said Friday it has reached a $95.6 million settlement with thousands of patients who sued the company after a 2005 safety recall of one of the company's heart defibrillators.

When $18.5 million in attorney's fees are included, the settlement totals $114.1 million.

The 2,682 lawsuits filed by aggrieved patients were consolidated into one case in U.S. District Court in Minnesota.

They stem from the Fridley company's February 2005 recall of 87,000 Marquis implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) after a small number of the device's batteries failed. Medtronic says it is not aware of any deaths tied to the potential malfunction. More than 20,000 patients had their device removed after the recall.

Part of a $5 billion industry, ICDs are stopwatch-sized devices implanted in the chest that shock an errantly beating heart back into rhythm.

Charles Zimmerman, a Minneapolis attorney who served as co-lead counsel in the case, said it will take 60 to 100 days for plaintiffs to receive their share of the settlement.

"I'm really happy to get this outcome for the people who deserve it," Zimmerman said. He noted that the combined case, called multidistrict litigation, took just less than two years to settle. Often cases this size take many years to resolve.

Medtronic spokesman Rob Clark said the company did not set aside a special reserve account to cover litigation costs. The company will reflect the settlement as a one-time charge in its fiscal third quarter, which ends in January, although it did not specify the amount of the charge.

Medtronic did not admit any liability in the case.

Pat Mackin, president of Medtronic's cardiac rhythm disease management business, said in a statement that the company is "pleased to settle these cases and put the matter behind us. We prefer to focus our resources on areas that are beneficial to physicians and patients, rather than prolong this litigation.''

Last month, another medical technology company, Boston Scientific Corp., settled a case involving safety issues with Guidant Corp. defibrillators for $240 million.

That case, also consolidated in Minnesota federal court, covered 8,550 claims. (When Boston Scientific bought Guidant for $27 billion in 2006, it inherited the case.)

Medtronic's stock closed Friday at $50.43, up 54 cents.

Janet Moore • 612-673-7752

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