Swiss Co. Seeks to Settle U.S. SuitsMar 14, 2002 | AP
Swiss medical technology company Sulzer Medica AG said Thursday that it has submitted a final $1 billion proposal to settle thousands of U.S. lawsuits filed by people who received faulty hip and knee replacements.
A statement released by Sulzer Medica said that all parties involved have signed the final wording, but that any of them still reserve the right to "opt out" between April 12 and May 14.
The proposal is based on an agreement reached in last month U.S. District Court in Cleveland. It replaces an earlier $783 million settlement proposed by Sulzer Orthopedics Inc., the Austin, Texas-based subsidiary of Sulzer Medica.
"The final proposal is a milestone, but only on May 14 will we be able to say whether or not it will come through," Sulzer Medica spokeswoman Beatrice Tschanz said.
A federal court in Ohio is scheduled to have a final hearing on the fairness of the proposal on May 6.
Tschanz said the company is confident that more than 90 percent of the patients will choose to take the settlement, but added there is still a risk of further lawsuits.
She said she expects an U.S. court to extend an injunction barring individual lawsuits against Sulzer Medica, which runs out March 15.
The company has said Sulzer Orthopedics might have had to file for bankruptcy if the settlement fails.
The company was forced to recall thousands of artificial joints in December 2000 after it was disclosed that a manufacturing change had contaminated some with an oily residue that prevented the new joint from bonding with patients' bones.
Around 3,400 patients fitted with artificial hips and knee baseplates had to be operated on again. The number may rise to as many as 4,000.