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Selection of Shiley Trial Jury Begins : Courts: Members will hear a suit filed by a recipient--the first of at least six cases to be heard in the county--against the maker of the potentially defective Bjork-Shiley heart valve.

July 29, 1993|JAMES M. GOMEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — Selection of the jury is to begin today for the first trial of Shiley Inc., maker of the potentially defective Bjork-Shiley heart valve.

The jury will hear a lawsuit filed last year in Orange County Superior Court by heart-valve recipient Ruth Barillas of San Diego. About 300 people have died because of the valve's failure.

The trial is the first of at least six to be heard in Orange County. It is expected to cover a wide range of issues, including whether Shiley--a subsidiary of Pfizer Inc. in New York--knew that the valve was substandard and whether the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was negligent in approving the controversial device.

Barillas, who is claiming psychological harm in her suit, is the first to go to trial. However, there have been about 300 settlements already with heart-valve recipients.

In addition, there is an appeal pending in a Pennsylvania court on a worldwide class-action suit. About 50,000 people around the world have been implanted with Bjork-Shiley heart valves, which contain small metal struts that have a tendency to snap.

The cost of that class-action suit, in which Shiley and Pfizer would pay for reimplants and psychological help, is estimated to be as much as $215 million.

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