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Jury Awards $11.5 Million in Toxic Shock Case

February 26, 1985

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A federal jury on Monday awarded $11.5 million to the family of a Wichita woman who died of toxic shock syndrome.

The five-woman, three-man U.S. District Court jury found Playtex International 80 percent liable for the damages and Wichita Dr. Tom Hays 20 percent liable. Hays was not a defendant in the suit and cannot be required to pay the damages.

Betty O’Gilvie, a 21-year-old mother of two, died in April 1983 of the illness caused by a bacterium that produces a poison. Most of its victims have been menstruating women, but cases have been reported in children and men.

The jury awarded Mrs. O’Gilvie’s husband, Kelly, and her children $10 million in punitive damages, $250,000 for pain and suffering and $1,275,000 in actual and other damages.

Mark Hutton, the plaintiffs’ attorney, estimated there are 300 to 400 similar suits pending across the country, and that Monday’s verdict would have an impact on them.

″(Tampon) manufacturers, including Playtex International, will say, ‘We’ve taken too many chances, we better start settling these cases,’ Hutton said. ″And hopefully this large award will tell these tampon manufacturers, ’Let’s get these cases settled. Let’s put on the market a safer product.‴

Juries have found for the plaintiffs in several previous cases.

In his opening statement, Larry Wall, Playtex’ attorney, accused Mrs. O’Gilvie’s doctor of malpractice for diagnosing her illness as scarlet fever four days before her death.

Wall refused to comment after the verdict.

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