In 2008 Reed Smith partner Michael Brown reached lawyer nirvana. After years of barnstorming around the country winning pretrial and appellate victories on preemption grounds for client Medtronic Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 in Riegel v. Medtronic, Inc. that patients cannot recover damages from the makers of certain Food and Drug Administration-approved medical devices. In the product liability field, particularly in sprawling mass torts, victories are often incremental — but not this time. The decision upheld a ruling Brown had won before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals two years before. (Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher‘s Theodore Olson argued the Supreme Court case.)
Brown’s reward for his groundbreaking efforts? Here’s the nirvana part: more work, of course. Plaintiffs lawyers were quick to shift their tactics, so once again, Brown is racking up frequent flier miles on behalf of Medtronic, fighting about a dozen parallel claim suits, which allege that the medical technology company is not, in fact, adhering to federal standards.
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