Dakota Datebook

Dalkon Shield Litigator

Saturday, May 29, 2004

In May, 18 years ago, one of the most famous corporate lawsuits in history was being waged against A.H. Robbins, the manufacturer of the Dalkon Shield intrauterine device.

IUDs were developed in the 1960s as a form of birth control inspired by Middle Easterners who sometimes inserted stones into their saddle camels’ uteruses to prevent pregnancies.

Shortly after the Dalkon Shield went on the market, reports started coming in that women were getting very sick, having miscarriages, becoming sterile and even dying. A.H. Robbins tried to blame the women themselves, but by 1986, 310,000 women from all over the world were suing the company. The field of attorneys was so unmanageable that the defense whittled itself down to its 38 most qualified lawyers. The judge hearing the case further narrowed that group to a committee of five – three victims and two attorneys, one of whom was Gorman King Jr. of Fargo. The women won their case, and by the mid-1990s, billions of settlement dollars were being dispersed to defendants.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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