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A jury awarded a dental hygienist $842,000 for her allergic reaction to latex gloves last week in a case that is reportedly the first third-party liability latex glove jury verdict in Philadelphia. The verdict in Falcone v. Baxter Healthcare Corp. is estimated to total $1.2 million with delay damages, according to plaintiff’s attorney Howell K. Rosenberg of Brookman Rosenberg Brown & Sandler, who also sits on the MDL executive committee and the plaintiffs’ steering committee for latex glove litigation. Another latex glove case, Gonoude v. Baxter, had gone to trial but never got to verdict, Rosenberg said. The defendants in Gonoude settled in May. Original defendants Benco Dental Supply Co., Cranberry (M) SDN.BHD, Dash Medical Gloves Inc., Harry Schein Inc. and IDE Interstate won summary judgment this spring. Defendants Jason Marketing Corp. and Owens and Minor Medical Inc. were dismissed by stipulation with Safeskin Corp. Defendants Baxter and Microflex Medical Corp. settled for undisclosed amounts in the case, leaving glove manufacturer Safeskin as the remaining defendant. Safeskin is owned by Kimberly-Clark. Judge Allan L. Tereshko of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas heard the case. Rosenberg, who represented Kathryn Falcone with Leonard F. Feldman, said he had just given his opening statement to the jury on Sept. 11 when the courtroom, like all Philadelphia courts, was evacuated. The trial resumed on Sept. 12. The eight-person jury deliberated for one day — Sept. 27 — before returning a unanimous verdict for the plaintiff. Plaintiff Falcone, along with her husband, claimed that she suffered asthma, rhinitis, hives, contact dermatitis, a sore throat, fatigue, headaches, “extreme discomfort, depression and emotional distress” and respiratory problems from latex exposure. She had been exposed to latex gloves since she began as a student at Temple University School of Dental Hygiene in 1981, but she wasn’t diagnosed with a latex allergy until March 14, 1994. Falcone alleged negligence on failure to warn the health care community of the dangers of the gloves, including stating that the products were “hypoallergenic.” She also sued on strict liability grounds for a defectively designed product, and for breach of express and implied warranty. The plaintiffs decided not to pursue their initial claim of loss of consortium. The jury found that Safeskin’s breach of implied warranty was a substantial contributing factor in causing Falcone harm. It also found that natural latex gloves made by Baxter, Microflex and Safeskin were defective. However, the jury said Falcone was 10 percent negligent and that Baxter, Microflex and Safeskin were each 30 percent negligent. Falcone did not personally wear gloves from June to December 1995 but worked in two dental offices where she said she inhaled latex dust from gloves used by her coworkers. Safeskin was represented by Jeffrey Singer of Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney in Chicago and by Walter H. Swayze, managing partner of the firm’s Philadelphia office. Swayze would say only that Safeskin is “considering its post-trial options.” LATEX GLOVE MDL At the federal level, the latex glove MDL cases are “getting ready to do Daubert hearings,” Rosenberg said. Mediation has been ordered on the remaining cases, which will be listed for trial if they are not settled. Rosenberg’s firm is involved in about 60 of those cases, he said. Currently, Rosenberg said many health care facilities are switching to Nitrile gloves, a synthetic material that contains no latex proteins. While latex gloves continue to be manufactured, Rosenberg said that many manufacturers are no longer powdering the inside of those gloves. While powdering makes latex gloves easier to don, the latex proteins bond to the powder and become airborne when the gloves are stretched. Breathing in latex particles exacerbates the risk of an allergic reaction, he said. Vinyl gloves became popular as an alternative to latex a few years ago when latex allergies became a widespread issue, but Nitrile supposedly is most like latex in its ability to conform to the hand, he said.

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