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Insurance Company for Dalkon Shield Maker Sued

April 11, 1986

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ A class action lawsuit has been filed against the insurer for the A.H. Robins Co., manufacturer of the Dalkon Shield intrauterine device that was taken off the market in 1974 because of injuries suffered by women who used it.

The suit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in St. Paul by attorneys for women claiming injuries from the birth control device, is the first against Aetna Casualty & Surety Co. in connection with the Dalkon Shield.

Robins filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code last year in federal court in Virginia, and the approximately 250,000 women who claim injuries from the Dalkon Shield will be paid along with other creditors from the assets of the company.

John Cochrane, a well-known class action lawyer who filed the suit, contends that Aetna and Robins conspired to prevent the medical community and the public from learning of the dangers of the Dalkon Shield and delayed and obstructed presentation of claims against Robins.

Aetna spokesman Matthew Sheridan, reached today at the company’s headquarters in Hartford, Conn., said Aetna would have no comment on the suit.

Cochrane said bringing Aetna into the Dalkon Shield litigation may mean more money for the injured plaintiffs.

The attorney already had been handling about 400 Dalkon Shield cases against Robins, and he said the action against Aetna grew out of the investigation of those cases. ″It became more and more apparent that Aetna was a culpable part of this whole unfortunate series of events,″ Cochrane said.

In addition to seeking general damages and exemplary damages from Aetna, Cochrane contends the insurance company also violated the federal racketeering statute, which provides for treble damages.

Seven women from six states are named as plaintiffs in the suit, which seeks to represent all women with present or future Dalkon Shield product liability claims. Cochrane said it may take the court a year or more to determine whether a class action suit should be certified.

Meanwhile, Robins on Thursday agreed in Richmond, Va., to a federal motion that a director with unusual authority be named to guide the company through bankruptcy proceedings sparked by the Dalkon Shield damage claims.

William C. White, the federal trustee overseeing the pharmaceutical company’s efforts to reorganize, is to name the director.

Robins said it is gratified an ″innovative approach on addressing the concerns expressed in the U.S. government motion for a trustee has been developed.″

Assistant U.S. Attorney S. David Schiller has asked U.S. District Judge Robert R. Mehrige Jr. to approve appointment of the trustee and hold in contempt any Robins officials found responsible for making $7 million in various unauthorized payments after the company filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code last Aug. 21.

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