NEW YORK, December 4—Litigation communications continues to be a growth area for several major public relations firms, Hill & Knowlton among them. The international agency has been retained by Sulzer Medica AG to handle U.S. litigation and corporate communications.
The medical device company’s Sulzer Orthopedics subsidiary is negotiating a $783 million voluntary class action settlement for a large number of individual lawsuits that were filed after patients who had hip and knee replacement surgery said the device designed to ease their pain was making it worse. The company has also been engaged in a war of words with former parent Sulzer AG, which says the problems occurred after Sulzer Medica was spun off, and which denies any moral or legal responsibility for the problems.
“It was clear that we needed the skills and experience of US communicators with a good understanding of litigation issues, and Hill and Knowlton was the obvious choice for us,” says Beatrice Tschanz, director of corporate communications for Sulzer Medica.
The H&K team for the Sulzer Medica program is headed by Jim Cox, U.S. director of client service; Harlan Loeb, the U.S. head of H&K’s litigation asset group; and Francesca Trainor, New York litigation specialist.
According to Cox.  “Sulzer Medica acted very responsibly in quickly addressing the problem, starting with a voluntary recall of all U.S. hip and knee replacement products and providing support for patients and surgeons if replacements were needed. It has provided full financial support for the surgery, replacement product and even lost wages. All of the products have now been replaced with high-quality hip and knee implant products that eliminate the problem.
“Our challenge now is to be sure that story is being told, and that we are encouraging a national settlement which ensures that all patients are treated fairly.”