A. H. Robins Co., maker of the controversial Dalkon Shield, today accused a former employe of falsifying a memorandum he used last year to back up claims that Robins officials destroyed documents in 1975 to protect the company in lawsuits over the birth control device.
At a press conference at its international headquarters here, the company also said the employe, Roger L. Tuttle, was in El Paso in 1975 during one week he had claimed to be in Richmond overseeing the review of documents to be destroyed.
Attorneys for Robins said they soon will ask the federal courts to disallow Tuttle's allegations in thousands of suits pending against the company by users of the device who claim pelvic infections, miscarriages and congenital deformities. The device no longer is distributed.
Tuttle's allegations, first made last summer, "caused numerous articles to be written . . . and cast the company in a negative light. And those charges have proven injurious to the company," a Robins spokesman said.
The attorneys said they could not estimate how many damage suits have used Tuttle's allegations to bolster claims against the company. More than 13,000 cases have been filed over the past decade, and about 4,500 are pending. The company said it has paid out $314.6 million and recently set up a reserve fund of $615 million to cover legal costs and damage claims.
Tuttle, now a professor at Oral Roberts University law school in Tulsa, and his attorneys could not be reached for comment.
The Robins news conference today followed a legal deposition of Tuttle on May 14 by the company during which Tuttle denied fabricating the document.
James S. Crockett Jr., a Richmond attorney hired to review Tuttle's allegations, contended today that the crucial memorandum was prepared in 1977 after Tuttle left Robins and nearly two years after Tuttle alleges he was instructed by Robins' chief counsel to destroy documents.
Crockett displayed copies of personalized memo paper issued by Robins -- all with the company logo at the bottom -- adjacent to Tuttle's disputed memo, which did not have the logo and was one-half inch shorter.
Crockett contended Tuttle had taken the official memo paper, cutting off the logo, when he left Robins to work for Dan River Mills Co. in Danville, Va., in 1977.
Crockett said no use of the personal memo paper by Tuttle without the logo could be found in Robins' files. However, Crockett displayed several memos written by Tuttle at Dan River using the same shorter paper. Crockett said they were obtained by subpoena from Dan River earlier this year.
In federal court last July in Minneapolis, Tuttle said in a deposition that the 1975 memo, dated the weeks of Feb. 3-7 and Feb. 10-14, was made "contemporaneously" with his review of documents.
The memo purports to show the initials of eight company officials whose records were searched for damaging documents, initials of seven employes who allegedly did the search and initials of three "persons doing destruction."
Crockett said all of the company's employes mentioned have denied any role in destruction of any documents.
Crockett produced copies of company documents that allegedly showed Tuttle was in El Paso rather than in Richmond during the second week the memo was dated. The documents included copies of an expense account kept by another employe who said he was in El Paso with Tuttle.
Tuttle's expense accounts were not available. In addition, the company said its El Paso attorney, Sam Sparks, also recalled Tuttle's trip.
In his deposition May 14, Tuttle told Robins attorneys he could not recall the specific dates he was in El Paso or specifically when he reviewed documents that were to be destroyed.
In addition to the memo and dispute over his trip, Crockett said Tuttle, contrary to his testimony last year, did not establish Robins' first document-retention program -- a method of tracking the use and disposal of company files. Tuttle claimed the program was designed to cover up destruction of the Dalkon records.
Crockett produced company records to show such a program had been in existence as early as the 1950s and said there were no substantial changes in the program in 1975, the year Tuttle alleged the coverup took place.