Class action sought in suit against Baxter; Complaint alleges machines have led to at least 56 deaths - Chicago Sun-Times - November 14, 2001

Class action sought in suit against Baxter; Complaint alleges machines have led to at least 56 deaths By: Dave Carpenter
Chicago Sun-Times
November 14, 2001

Trial lawyers are attempting to create a class action lawsuit against Baxter International Inc. for negligence that the attorneys say resulted in the deaths of more than 50 people who used Baxter's dialysis machines.

The lawsuit against the Deerfield company--the first one filed since Baxter's acknowledgment that its machines were linked to many of the deaths--seeks damages on behalf of patients who died or were injured by the machines. According to the suit, the machines have led to at least 56 deaths.

Company spokeswoman Lisa Scheff said the lawsuit had been expected and Baxter had no further comment.

The Food and Drug Administration says more than 50 deaths in seven countries this summer and fall are being investigated in connection with Baxter kidney dialysis filters, which have now been recalled.

Earlier this month, Baxter said a chemical residue in the filters appeared to have played a role in many of the reported deaths. Besides discontinuing the product and idling two plants, the company said it was setting aside $100 million to $150 million for litigation and related expenses.

The lawsuit was filed in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of the son of Calvin Loverling, a New Jersey resident who the suit said died March 15, a day after undergoing dialysis on a Baxter machine. It said it seeks to represent "all persons who suffered personal injury or death as the result of the defective design and manufacture of the dialyzers."

Named as co-defendants were Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, maker of the processing fluid that Baxter said mistakenly remained in the filters made at a Baxter plant in Sweden, and Bayer Healthcare, a division of Baxter.

FDA spokeswoman Sharon Snider said the agency has looked at 51 to 54 reported deaths. She said some were not caused by the filters, but the FDA agrees with Baxter's acknowledgment that it apparently caused many of them.

The law firm, Kenneth B. Moll and Associates Ltd., contended that the reported deaths of patients who used Baxter dialysis machines include 23 in Croatia, 15 in Spain, seven in Taiwan, five in Germany, four in the United States and two in Colombia. The FDA, while reporting different totals for Croatia and Spain, also has cited four reported deaths in Italy.

3M declined comment on the lawsuit. It said last week that the fluid left in the filters, known as PF 5070, is typically used in industrial and commercial applications and that the company wasn't aware Baxter used the product for leak testing until last month.