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Heart Valve Suit Dropped; Settlement Accepted

July 09, 1986|LESLIE BERKMAN | Times Staff Writer

A man whose artificial heart valve broke while he was driving on the San Diego Freeway dropped his lawsuit against Irvine-based Shiley Inc. and its corporate parent Tuesday for what his lawyer believes is the largest settlement made by Shiley since its problem-fraught valve was removed from the market last November.

Edgar Simon, attorney for Bruce Peterson, 47, of Santa Monica, whose artificial valve had to be replaced, said his agreement with Shiley and New York-based Pfizer Inc. prohibits disclosing the terms of the settlement. But after speaking with lawyers throughout the country who also have brought lawsuits against Shiley, he concluded that Peterson's settlement is the largest.

The lawsuit that Peterson originally filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging that Shiley exercised improper quality control during production of the valves, sought $5 million in general damages.

On Tuesday, Simon filed legal papers requesting the same court to dismiss the case.

A Shiley spokeswoman said Tuesday that the company had "no comment" on the Peterson settlement nor would the company say how many other settlements or pending lawsuits involve the valve. As of last December, Shiley, the world's largest manufacturer of heart valves, was a defendant in more than 25 lawsuits in the United States and still more abroad, according to Allen Greenberg of the Public Citizen Health Research Group. At that time, settlements ranged from $350,000 to nearly $1 million, Greenberg said. No case had gone to trial.

But Peterson's problems aren't over, Simon said. When his mechanical heart valve failed last year--two years after it was implanted--the surgeons replaced it with another Bjork-Shiley 60-degree Convexo-Concave heart valve because it was the only valve on hand. As a result, Simon said, his client is "living now with a valve he fears may also fracture."

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