Lawsuit Seeks Damages From Baxter, 3M in Dialysis Death - Associated Press - November 14, 2001

Lawsuit Seeks Damages From Baxter, 3M in Dialysis Death Associated Press
November 14, 2001

CHICAGO - Maplewood-based 3M Co. is a co-defendant in a lawsuit filed Tuesday against Baxter International, Inc. The suit seeks damages on behalf of patients who may have been harmed by Baxter's dialysis machines, blamed in dozens of deaths worldwide.

In the first lawsuit responding to the deaths, a Chicago law firm accuses Baxter, based in Deerfield, IL, of carelessness and negligence and claims at least 56 people who used the dialysis machines died.

'We believe that the total number of deaths around the world will be much higher in light of the inquiries our firm has received,' attorney Kenneth Moll said in a statement.

The lawsuit was filed in Cook County Circuit Court.

3M makes to processing fluid that Baxter said mistakenly remained in the filters.

On November 5, Baxter said the chemical residue in its recalled filters appeared to have played a role in many of the reported deaths. Besides discontinuing the product and idling two plants, it said it was setting aside $100 million to $150 million for litigation and related expenses.

Spokeswoman Lisa Scheff on Tuesday said the lawsuit had been expected and Baxter had no further comment.

3M declined to 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 that Baxter used the product for leak testing until last month.

The Food and Drug Administration said more than 50 deaths in seven countries this summer and fall are being investigated in connection with the since-recalled Baxter kidney dialysis filters.

An attorney for the company, Hal Kleinman, said the amount of damages would be determined in a trial, but can range from $2 million to $15 million per case in such lawsuits.

In an unrelated move, 3M said it will buy back up to $2.5 billion in stock during the next two years starting January 1.

The complaint was filed by Kenneth B. Moll, Hall J. Kleinman, and Sonia S. Kinra of Kenneth B Moll & Associates in Chicago.

The buybacks will be used to support employee stock purchase plans for other corporate purposes, including acquisitions, the company said in a news release. Companies often use share repurchase programs to boost their stock price.

Shares of 3M rose $2.46 to $113.41.

As of September 30, 3M had 392,085,285 common shares outstanding and 127,772 shareholders of record.

--Bloomberg News and Dow Jones News Service contributed to this report.