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A Swiss medical technology company said Saturday that it has agreed to pay $1 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits brought by people who received faulty hip and knee replacements. The agreement was reached Friday night after three days of talks. It replaces Sulzer Orthopedics Inc.’s proposed $783 million settlement, which plaintiffs’ lawyers said was inadequate. The company, based in Austin, Texas, is a U.S. subsidiary of Sulzer Medica, located in Switzerland. The settlement requires a judge’s approval. A hearing was set for May 14. Urs Kamber, Sulzer Medica’s chief financial officer, said the final details, including how much money each person would receive, must be worked out in the agreement reached in U.S. District Court in Cleveland. “We don’t know for certain yet, but it is in the range of $200,000 per patient,” he said. Plaintiffs’ attorneys praised the proposal. “I think this is a settlement that will really provide for patients who had to endure a lot of suffering,” said attorney Tommy Jacks, who helped negotiate the settlement. “At the same time, it’s a settlement that will not force Sulzer into bankruptcy, because that’s when the patients would really lose out.” The company has said Sulzer Orthopedics might have had to file for bankruptcy if a settlement was not reached. In December 2000, the company was forced to recall thousands of artificial joints after it was disclosed that a manufacturing change had contaminated some with an oily residue that prevented the new joint from bonding with patients’ bones. Sulzer Medica said it will contribute $725 million to the settlement. The deal also includes payments from Sulzer Medica’s former parent company, Sulzer AG, and insurance proceeds. As of Friday, 2,786 patients have had corrective hip surgery and 561 have had corrective knee surgery, the company said. Sulzer Medicas figures up to 4,000 patients may be covered by the final agreement. Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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