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Lawyer calls Sulzer Medica pay plan inadequate

Sulzer Medica's offer has failed to impress some claimants

A lawyer representing a group of plaintiffs in the United States says Sulzer Medica's offer to financially settle legal suits related to faulty hip and knee implants is insufficient.

David Riggs, an Oklahoma lawyer representing patients who received knee implants, says the Winterthur-based company’s $780 million (SFr1.3 billion) compensation package doesn’t go far enough.

“Sulzer Medica’s offer is a step in the right direction towards solving this huge problem, but it can do better,” Riggs told swissinfo.

Sulzer Medica estimates that 4,000 corrective surgeries will be needed to correct problems associated with hip and knee implants. Sulzer will pay the cost of the operations needed by patients

The company said on Wednesday that its compensation terms would be spread over several years to make the terms financially bearable for the company.

Victims’ pain and suffering

Riggs spoke with the company’s representatives last week on behalf of his clients, but he only learned of the new settlement offer from the media. He regrets that Sulzer decided not to offer better compensation.

“Sulzer Medica has a particular responsibility in this case. The company chose to sell products it knew to be defective and this attitude has caused the victims’ pain and suffering,” said Riggs.

The lawyer is also concerned about the separation of Sulzer AG and Sulzer Medica, which went into effect last month. Riggs wants the holding company to shoulder its share of the burden.

“I’m not convinced that Sulzer AG should be allowed to get off so easily,” Riggs told swissinfo.

Sulzer Medica’s chief executive, Stephan Rietiker, told swissinfo that he had been planning a swift settlement since his appointment two months ago.

Sulzer has petitioned a US district court in Cleveland to collect all pending lawsuits to meet patient claims “quickly and fairly”.

A judge will hear the concerned parties on Friday. A decision should be forthcoming within 60 to 90 days.

The company would pay patients needing multiple corrective surgeries $97,500 (SFr163,000) in cash and equity, while those requiring one operation would receive $57,500. Spouses would also be compensated.

It is facing 1,029 lawsuits for defective hip shells and another two for tibial baseplates.

swissinfo with agencies

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