NEW YORK: A day after entering mediation with patients affected by
its defective hip and knee implants, German-based Sulzer Medica
announced on December 4 that it had retained Hill & Knowlton to handle
US litigation and corporate communications regarding the $783
million class-action settlement.
Jim Cox, US director of client services for H&K, will be heading the
account. He explained that the agency was approached earlier this fall
by Sulzer Medica's director of corporate communications, Beatrice
Tschanz. She had held that same position for Swiss Air, which brought in
H&K to handle crisis communications after the crash of its Flight 111
off the coast of Nova Scotia on September 2, 1998. Sulzer Medica did not
invite any other firms to pitch on the project.
Sulzer Medica began a voluntary recall of its faulty implants - which
may affect up to 4,500 US patients - last December, and has so far been
served with 1,800 lawsuits. Traces of lubricant left on the implants
after the manufacturing process have prevented them from grafting
securely to the bones of some patients, forcing those individuals to
undergo additional surgery to have the devices replaced.
"These suits have raised real questions about the financial future of
the company," Cox said. "The mediation is a huge step forward. It's a
solution that will work for all the parties involved."