May 27, 2014 by Brad Perriello
A Texas state appeals court overturns some of the so-called ‘death penalty’ sanctions leveled against Medtronic in a wrongful death lawsuit filed after a morphine pain pump patient died following back surgery.
The lower court granted the sanctions, prompting an appeal from Medtronic, arguing that the ruling imposed “death penalty” sanctions that killed its case with no means of appeal. A 3-judge panel of the Texas 10th Court of Appeals agreed in part, unanimously ruling that the contact between Medtronic’s outside counsel and Snodgrass occurred without either Medtronic’s or Williams’ knowledge and that the lower court failed to consider lesser sanctions as required by law.
“We conclude that the order imposes death penalty sanctions because it adjudicates the central issue to the case, that being that the pump caused the morphine toxicity which resulted in the death of Tina McAdams,” wrote Judge Tom Gray. “The record demonstrates that counsel for Medtronic was the person who made contact with Snodgrass and who was responsible for providing him with privileged work product information from Medtronic. The record does not indicate that Medtronic or Williams were involved in the allegedly improper contacts with Snodgrass or that either of them was aware of Snodgrass’s identity.”