Class Action Dilemmas: Pursuing Public Goals for Private Gain

By Deborah R. Hensler; Nicholas M. Pace et al. | Go to book overview
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In the early 1980s, at the advent of the AIDS epidemic, the supply of plasma used to manufacture factor concentrate, a blood product used by hemophiliacs to facilitate clotting, became infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV.). Eventually, factor concentrate transmitted the virus to more than half of the 16,000 persons with hemophilia in the United States. 3 Soon after, lawsuits against the manufacturers of factor concentrate arose across the country in state and federal courts, as both individual cases and class actions. The case presented here was intended to resolve all of the nationwide litigation in a single class action, and it has followed a particularly complicated course. After the initial complaint was filed, this lawsuit was certified as a class action, decertified by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and once again certified as a class action for purposes of settlement.

A Medical Breakthrough

Hemophilia, a disease afflicting males that is inherited from their mothers, is marked by spontaneous, uncontrollable internal and external bleeding that is caused by a lack of the proteins necessary for blood clotting. Internal bleeding into joints or organs may result in death or disability. External bleeding can also be fatal if the sufferer loses an excessive amount of blood.

In 1964 a process was developed to extract clotting agents from healthy human blood. The resulting extract, known as cryoprecipitate, is administered by transfusion to facilitate the clotting necessary to prevent excessive blood loss and permanent damage to the nerves, muscles, and organs. 4 The development of cryoprecipitate was a step forward in the treatment of hemophilia, but there were drawbacks to its use. To prevent excessive blood loss, the patient needed to receive an injection of cryoprecipitate at the first sign of a bleeding spell; however, patients could not self-administer the treatment. If a bleeding spell


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Class Action Dilemmas: Pursuing Public Goals for Private Gain
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