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Allegiance Healthcare Corp. and Regent Hospital Products both make latex gloves used by surgeons, nurses and other medical personnel. A major problem with latex is that it is very sticky, making the gloves hard to put on, particularly for people who have just washed their hands. Adding talcum powder doesn’t help because it causes human tissue to stick together. The alternative, cornstarch powder, has proved to be problematical because it attaches to proteins from the latex and, when the gloves come off, the mixture can trigger an allergic reaction. The age of AIDS ushered in a dramatic increase in glove use, and a corresponding increase in such allergic reactions among health care professionals. To address this, Regent developed a powder-free glove that uses a plastic liner as a sliding agent. In 1996, it began marketing them as safer and less likely to cause allergies. Advertising material said that the gloves were not only hypoallergenic, but that the in-use failure rate was lower and that they transferred less protein than the powdered variety. In late 1997, Allegiance sued Regent, contending that it engaged in false and misleading advertising in violation of the Lanham Act. Regent’s gloves, said plaintiff’s attorney Carol Ahern, “were not safer for people with allergies.” Nevertheless, that claim helped Regent grab more market share. “They made $159 million in profit in two years,” said Ahern, claiming that Regent made 12 specific false claims concerning the safety and efficacy of its gloves. Allegiance sought $159 million in profit disgorgement, $12.1 million in lost profits and $2.5 million in corrective advertising costs. Regent filed a counterclaim, alleging that the suit was malicious, fraudulent, willful and in bad faith. On Feb. 25, an Atlanta jury found that Regent had made only one false claim, regarding the credentials of an expert, which caused no damages to Allegiance. The jury also found for Regent on its counterclaim. Plaintiff’s attorneys: Lamar Mixon of Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore in Atlanta; Carol Ahern of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue in Chicago; Paul Yetter of Yetter & Warden in Houston. Defense attorneys: William B. Hill Jr., John Parker and Angela D. Simpson of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker in Atlanta; Peter Ludwig, Andrew Baum, Peter Schechter, James Hanft and Kevin Reiner of Darby & Darby in New York.

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