G. D. Searle & Co. has agreed to settle all claims and lawsuits over alleged injury from the use of its Copper-7 contraceptive device that were brought by a law firm representing more than 100 such clients, a company spokeswoman said Thursday.
Searle spokeswoman Kay Bruno said the agreement, which still requires approval from clients represented by the Minneapolis law firm of Robins, Kaplan, Miller and Ciresi of Minneapolis, bars disclosure of the settlement's terms and conditions, including the number of claims settled.
Bruno confirmed the June 9 agreement in response to questions from reporters. She also said the settlement "does not have a materially adverse effect" on the financial positions of Searle or its parent Monsanto Corp.
Bruno said the settlement leaves about 350 other pending Copper-7 lawsuits in state and federal courts.
Women who have brought lawsuits against the Skokie, Ill.-based pharmaceutical concern contend that the Copper-7, once one of the nation's most widely prescribed intrauterine devices, caused pelvic inflammations, ectopic pregnancies or perforation of the uterus, and could result in infertility.
Searle pulled the product from the market along with a second IUD in January, 1986, citing the high costs stemming from hundreds of lawsuits. The company has maintained in court documents that the product "cannot cause the various injuries plaintiffs claim."
Bruno said, "At last count, 330 cases involving the Copper-7 had been disposed of (prior to trial) in our favor. Of the 19 that went to trial, we won 15 and lost four.
"Two of those are pending appeal and of the two completed, we have paid a total of about $300,000," she added.
Esther Kociemba, represented by the Minneapolis firm, was awarded $8 million last year by a jury in St. Paul, Minn.
It could not be determined whether that case was part of the settlement. The law firm has said that it represented more than 100 people in such Copper-7 litigation.
Michael Ciresi, who has been the firm's lead attorney in Copper-7 cases, did not return calls.
"I couldn't estimate what the settlement may have been worth. My guess is, that like our firm, Robins Kaplan Miller had one group of cases pending in court and a second group whose cases were being investigated for possible lawsuits," said attorney H. Robert Erwin Jr. of Baltimore in a telephone interview.
Erwin said his firm was handling "40-plus cases formally in lawsuits and evaluating several hundred more--not all of which we'll accept."
"Typically, IUD cases can range from $10,000 if the causation is weak and the injury nominal to $250,000 or more if you have a young, married couple rendered childless due to an infection from an IUD," he added.
Erwin said his firm had not been similarly approached by Searle about a settlement.