The Dalkon Shield Lawsuit Overview

  • February 29, 2024

The Origins of the Dalkon Shield

The Dalkon Shield was an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD) introduced in the 1960s, created by the now-defunct A.H. Robins Company. The device was marketed to women as an alternative to oral contraceptive pills, with a promise of less side-effects and better protection against unwanted pregnancies. The use of the device was widespread, with around 2.8 million women using the Dalkon Shield worldwide in just a few years after its introduction.

The Health Impact and Studies Related to the Dalkon Shield

The majority of users of the Dalkon Shield suffered various health issues. Studies conducted at the time found an alarming rate of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) and severe infections among the users. Abortions and septic miscarriages were also extremely common, leading to a high mortality rate. Furthermore, many users often suffered from infertility, ectopic pregnancies, and numerous other severe complications.

The Beginning of Legal Troubles for Dalkon Shield Inventors

With the rise of the health issues associated with the device, the legal troubles for the A.H. Robins Company began. In the late 1970s, lawsuits filed by women suffering from complications started to mount. The company initially disputed the claims but was eventually forced to confront the issues. The FDA also ordered a halt to the sales of the device in 1974, and Robins recalled the product the same year, although around 200,000 devices remained in use.

Key Developments in the Dalkon Shield Lawsuit

The main case against A.H. Robins began in 1975 when a user of the device filed a lawsuit seeking damages for physical and emotional pain caused by the device. The case dragged for several years, eventually leading to several developments. The most notable was the case of Carter v. A.H. Robins Co., in which a court ordered the company to pay $6.2 million in damages, paving the way for numerous other lawsuits.

The Aftermath and Lasting Impact of the Dalkon Shield Lawsuit

The consequences of the lawsuit were catastrophic for A.H. Robins. Faced with over 400,000 claims and potential liabilities running into billions, the company filed for bankruptcy in 1985. The Dalkon Shield incident marked a turning point in the regulation and oversight of medical devices in the United States, leading to stronger safety protocols and bigger responsibility on producers to ensure the safety and effectiveness of their products. The incident is still cited as an egregious example of corporate negligence endangering public health.


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