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In re Sulzer Orthopedics and Knee Prosthesis Products Liability Litigation

Topic(s): Class Actions – Objections to Proposed Settlements
Status: closed
Citation: 03-4325, 03-4518, 04-3360 (6th cir)
Date Of Involvement: 06/05/2004

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Class member, Linda Mediate had undergone surgery to remove a Sulzer hip implant covered by this class action settlement. Ms. Mediate’s counsel allegedly mailed her claim form two days after the settlement deadline. The Claims Administrator denied her claim as untimely, and the Special Master affirmed that denial. Ms. Mediate moved the district court to overturn that decision, but the court rejected her request and those of many other late-filing class members, ruling that the class settlement absolutely precluded judicial review of the Special Master’s determinations.

Public Citizen represented Ms. Mediate on appeal, contending that class members did not waive their rights to judicial review and that the class settlement not only does not bar judicial review, but reinforces class members’ right to such review by granting the district court broad jurisdiction to interpret and enforce the settlement. Moreover, the settlement’s use of the term of art "special master" to refer to the official deciding administrative appeals confirms that class members retained their right to seek further review of the Special Master’s determinations because both Article III of the Constitution and Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure guarantee judicial review of a special master’s determinations, even if the parties stipulate that the special master’s decisions are final. We also argued that a two-day delay in filing a claim is trivial as a matter of law and that under both the federal doctrine of excusable neglect and Delaware law on substantial compliance, her claim should have been processed and paid. Rejecting these arguments, the court of appeals affirmed the district court’s decision.