Saturday, May 11, 2002

Judge approves $1B deal

Artificial joints improperly made

The Associated Press

        CLEVELAND — A federal judge approved a $1 billion settlement in a class action lawsuit filed by people who experienced faulty hip and knee replacements.

        Nearly 3,500 patients nationwide who received faulty artificial joints made by Texas-based Sulzer Orthopedics are covered by the settlement.

        Those who got the implants replaced without complications will each receive about $200,000. The payment will be higher for patients with complications. About $40,000 of each patient's share will go toward attorney fees.

        Judge Kate O'Malley approved the settlement on Thursday following a two-day fairness hearing.

        A small group of about 50 patients still wants to opt out of the settlement, which could be problematic for Sulzer when it pays claims.

        In December 2000, the company was forced to recall thousands of artificial joints due to a manufacturing problem that had contaminated some with an oily residue. The substance prevented the new joint from bonding with patients' bones.

        The company, based in Austin, Texas, is a U.S. subsidiary of Sulzer Medica, located in Switzerland.

        Sulzer's lead counsel, Richard Scruggs, said Tuesday that patients who choose to pursue litigation independently could bankrupt the company.

        The agreement specifies that Sulzer Orthopedics' Swiss-based parent, Sulzer Medica, should pay $725 million toward the settlement.


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