ST. PAUL, Minn. — The once widely used Copper-7 intrauterine contraceptive device was back on trial Monday, and plaintiffs' attorneys said they were armed with internal documents never before used against the G. D. Searle & Co. product.
The Minneapolis law firm Robins, Zelle, Larson & Kaplan, which represented plaintiffs in earlier litigation against Dalkon Shield maker A. H. Robins Co., settling 198 cases for a total of $38 million, also is representing the plaintiffs in the case against Searle.
Robins Zelle, which is representing more than 30 other women in separate Copper-7 lawsuits, has said evidence introduced in the firm's first trial against Searle is expected to set a foundation for lawsuits to come.
U.S. District Judge Robert G. Renner questioned potential jurors Monday to hear the suit brought by Esther R. Kociemba, 29, of the Melrose area northwest of here, and her husband, William. Opening arguments were planned Tuesday.
While 17 other cases involving the Copper-7 nationwide have gone to trial, attorney Roger P. Brosnahan has said his law firm will introduce internal company documents not used in those trials. Those documents, he said, will show that Searle marketed the IUDs without regard for women's health and safety.
Searle, which won 14 of the earlier cases, has denied that its IUD caused any injury to the women. One of the cases lost by Searle is on appeal.
When they filed the suit in October, 1984, the Kociembas asked for $500,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages, plus court costs, for injuries Mrs. Kociemba allegedly suffered as a result of using a Copper-7 IUD for just under 1 1/2 years in 1977 and 1978. The couple later amended their lawsuit to ask for an unspecified amount.
According to the suit, Mrs. Kociemba has experienced infertility, illnesses, "great pain, suffering and mental anguish" that have continued since she had the IUD removed in November, 1978.
More than a dozen attorneys for Robins Zelle have been going through documents involved in the Searle IUD cases for more than three years in preparation for the trial, Brosnahan said.
"We have gone through some 500,000 or more documents," he said.