Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) lost its bid Monday to have the U.S. Supreme Court toss a decision awarding $112 million in royalties to an Indiana spine surgeon-turned-inventor.
The court declined to hear a petition by Medtronic to overturn an appeals court decision that allowed the jury’s award to Dr. Rick Sasso to stand. Sasso won the royalties decision in Indiana state court in 2018, five years after first claiming in a lawsuit that the company shorted him on their royalties deal for the Vertex cervical spine system he helped develop.
Sasso licensed some of his early inventions to Sofamor Danek, about a year before its $3.3 billion merger with Fridley, Minn.-based Medtronic in January 1999, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal. Further deals for spine stabilization devices followed, including some that eventually hit the market under the Vertex brand. The company agreed to pay him 2% of net sales for eight years or the patent’s life if used in a device covered by a valid patent claim. Sasso argued that several valid patents cover the Vertex system and that Medtronic left out other products that used Vertex components, undercounting the sales calculation for his royalties.
In its appeal of the 2018 jury verdict, Medtronic claimed insufficient evidence to support the jury’s award. Medtronic also claimed that Sasso’s expert witness “wildly inflated” the $79.4 million in damages that Sasso sought for part of the system.
Medtronic had already paid Sasso some $23 million in royalties before Sasso filed suit and claimed it did not owe him anything more. The appeals court, however, disagreed, upholding the $112 million jury award in December 2020. In March, Medtronic petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the appeals court had exclusive jurisdiction to decide the case and erred in allowing the state jury award to stand.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.