Court sides with locals in Guidant suit

September 21, 2007

The state's second-highest appeals court is allowing a class-action lawsuit involving Guidant Corp. defibrillators to proceed in Marion County, though the ruling won't affect similar federal or state suits.

A three-judge Indiana Court of Appeals panel decided yesterday that two people could continue a class-action product liability lawsuit against Guidant over now-recalled defibrillators or pacemakers, according to the Indiana Lawyer.

Minnesota-based Cardiac Pacemakers Inc, a subsidiary of Guidant, manufactured the devices and wanted to get involved in the suit so that it could be moved to a federal court in its home state, where many similar cases have been moved for pre-trial proceedings.

Guidant announced a collective settlement of the federal court cases earlier this year; those are on hold while individual plaintiffs determine whether to accept that settlement.

This Indiana case is not affected by the federal halt, but Cardiac Pacemakers argued that the plaintiffs, Linda Mason and Ryan Terry, were trying to sidestep the federal litigation by keeping their case in state court.

Attorneys representing Mason and Terry seek to recover damages on behalf of a class of "several thousand" Hoosiers who received the defective defibrillators.

Marion Superior Judge Robyn Moberly denied Cardiac Pacemakers from intervening and ordered the case to remain in Indiana so no undue burden would be placed on the individuals suing and delays wouldn't be added by transferring the case to a federal court.

"The desire to resolve disputes between citizens of Indiana in our local courts outweighs the benefit of federal jurisdiction in this lawsuit as this time," Moberly wrote in her Jan. 2 order. "Hoosiers rightfully expect that when they have a dispute with another Hoosier, that they will not have to travel to Minnesota, or any other state, to have their day in court."

The appellate judges this week agreed in Cardiac Pacemakers, Inc. v. Ryan Terry and Linda Mason, No. 49A04-0704-CV-240. The decision is Not for Publication, meaning it can't be cited or relied on as precedent in other suits. Attorneys have 30 days from the decision to decide whether they'd want to ask for the ruling to be published, meaning it would set precedent for other Indiana cases.

Indianapolis-based Guidant was acquired for $27 billion in May 2006 by Boston Scientific Corp., which is headquartered in Natick, Mass.
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