A federal judge yesterday rejected pleas to allow anyone who missed an April 30 deadline to file notices of possible claims of harm caused by the Dalkon Shield, the intrauterine contraceptive device which the A. H. Robins Co. sold worldwide in the early 1970s.
U.S. District Judge Robert R. Merhige Jr. also ruled that the groups making the request -- the National Women's Health Network, and foreign women's groups in the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and British Columbia, and in Dublin, Ireland, and Bangladesh -- did not have the right to intervene in the bankruptcy proceeding he has supervised since Robins filed for voluntary reorganization last Aug. 21.
Merhige set the April 30 deadline last November, when he ordered Robins to undertake a global campaign to publicize the opportunity for all possible shield victims to file notices of claims.
For the U.S. phase of the campaign, Robins bought print and television advertisements; for foreign countries, Robins relied entirely on a public relations program run by Burson-Marsteller that accounted for $1.5 million of the total cost of nearly $4 million. By the deadline, nearly 307,000 potential claims were received, according to a tentative official tally.
Merhige praised the results as "staggering" and "comprehensive," saying that the Burson-Marsteller effort brought the notice to women in 81 foreign countries, "including women as far away as Bangladesh, Pakistan and Botswana."
The judge said he is sympathetic to the inevitability of there being "a woman somewhere who did not know" of the deadline, but said it must be remembered that foreign women do not have a guaranteed constitutional right to intervene. Even so, he said, "Robins' notice met the constitutional standard of due process."