H&K brought in on lawsuit mediation

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."

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