Appeals court upholds $112M damages judgment for Carmel spine surgeon

The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld a northern Indiana jury’s award of more than $112 million for a Carmel spine surgeon who won a royalty battle against medical device manufacturers.

The appellate court’s ruling leaves undisturbed a jury’s award of damages after a 15-day trial in Plymouth in 2018. A Marshall Circuit Court jury awarded Dr. Rick Sasso $112,452,269 in his breach of contract lawsuit against Medtronic Inc., Medtronic Sofamor Danek Inc. and Warsaw Orthopedic Inc.

Sasso sued the companies, claiming they had violated a contract by not paying royalties he was due for spinal implants and screw-implant systems he had invented and sold to the company more than a decade ago. The systems became one of the company’s largest product lines, with annual sales of more than $200 million.

Along the way, Medtronic paid Sasso more than $20 million in royalties, but he contended the company stopped paying him several years ago, breaching its obligations and acting in bad faith.

A six-person jury in Marshall Circuit Court returned the verdict in favor of Sasso, wrapping up a nearly month-long trial.

A panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment in all respects on Friday in a 45-page memorandum decision. The case is Warsaw Orthopedic, Inc., Medtronic, Inc., and Medtronic Sofamor Danek, Inc. v. Rick C. Sasso, M.D. (mem. dec.), 19A-PL-378.

The panel rejected the Medtronic defendants’ claims that the case should have been dismissed on jurisdictional grounds and that the companies were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The court also found that sufficient evidence supported the jury’s award of damages. The appeals court rejected Sasso’s cross-appeal seeking punitive damages.

“In short, the jury’s award of damages … is supported by the evidence,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote. “Accepting Medtronic’s contrary arguments would require us to reweigh the evidence and come to a contrary conclusion, which we may not do.”

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