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Jilted Baxter Suing Rival and Sales Crew in Affair of Heart

HEARD ON THE BEAT / HEALTH CARE

February 12, 1997|Barbara Marsh

Baxter Healthcare Corp. isn't sending Valentines to five salespeople recently hired away by another maker of products used to mend broken hearts.

On Jan. 30, the health-care giant's cardiovascular surgery division in Irvine sued the five individuals and the company that recruited them--Heartport Inc., of Redwood City--for allegedly conspiring to steal trade secrets for products to repair or replace human heart valves.

The following day, an Orange County Superior Court commissioner temporarily enjoined the defendants from unlawfully soliciting customers that use Baxter's heart-valve surgery products. The order also blocked them from selling valve and related products made by Baxter's corporate archrival, St. Jude Medical Inc.

Minnesota-based St. Jude, the largest producer of mechanical heart repair parts, is Heartport's partner in a strategic alliance to develop and sell products.

Baxter alleges Heartport promises to pay the sales representatives about $250,000 each during their first year with Heartport, and up to $900,000 or more if the Heartport--St. Jude collaboration exceeds expectations. Baxter claims industry sales personnel generally earn about $130,000 to $150,000. Baxter seeks general and punitive damages.

A Heartport spokesman said the company wouldn't comment. A hearing on Baxter's request for a permanent injunction is set for Feb. 26 in Orange County Superior Court.

Barbara Marsh covers health care for The Times. She can be reached at (714) 966-7762 and at barbara.marsh@latimes.com

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