Lawyers Beating Bushes to Find Guidant Claimants - Reuters Health - June 17, 2003

Lawyers Beating Bushes to Find Guidant Claimants
Reuters Health
June 17, 2003

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Less than a week after Guidant Corp. pleaded guilty to felony charges over injuries linked to one of its medical devices, law firms are beating the bushes for clients with possible claims against the company.

Three firms this week filed class-action lawsuits against Guidant, and many more seek to do so.

The Indianapolis-based maker of heart treatments said on Monday it already faced 14 civil lawsuits related to the product, and it expected more.

An Internet search on Google Tuesday turned up eight sponsored links by law firms seeking patients injured by Guidant's Ancure Endograft product. The device is used to reinforce weakened sections of the body's main artery that have ballooned and are at risk of rupture.

Several industry analysts said in research reports they expect a flood of patient liability and shareholder lawsuits, but seemed satisfied with Guidant's assurances on Monday that its liability risk was 'manageable.'

But Ryan Rauch, an analyst with Adams, Harkness & Hill, wasn't willing to let Guidant off that easily. 'I just don't think analysts and the company should be quick to say there is no risk going forward,' he said.

In a settlement agreement last week with the U.S. Attorney in San Francisco, Guidant agreed to pay $92.4 million in fines and investigation costs and plead guilty to 10 felony counts for mislabeling the product and misleading federal regulators about deaths and injuries linked to it.

Attorney Arlene Farolan of Chicago-based class-action firm Kenneth Moll & Associates, a sponsor of one of the Google links, said the response to her firm's inquiries has been 'overwhelming.'

Farolan said the harm was in Guidant's failure to disclose problems doctors were having with the device, which might have affected patient decision-making.

'This is information that every patient should know, so they could weigh the risks,' she said. Farolan said the firm planned to file a suit by June 20.

Personal injury firm Alexander Hawes & Audet, of San Jose, California, filed a class-action suit on Monday on behalf of a 70-year-old woman whose husband died of complications from a surgery involving the Ancure Endograft system.

A Guidant spokesman did not return phone calls requesting comment.

Endovascular devices, which are inserted in the groin and threaded through the body to the treatment site, are designed to replace traditional surgery, which involves a foot-long incision and a lengthy convalescence.