How the Dalkon Shield Problems Began

By: Kiley Roache

In the 1970s and 80s, a faulty IUD called the Dalkon Shield led to the death of 18 American women and to the injury of thousands of others. This resulted in 200,000 lawsuits, filed nation-wide, at a time when the legal doctrine supporting such a suit against a company was still being tested. As the cases piled up, a judge combined the cases throughout the country for multi-district discovery, the process of deposing witnesses and requesting documents. A lawyer who had been early to the cause, Bradley Post, and his co-counsels, including Arden Bradshaw, were assigned to direct the discovery process.

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Arden Bradshaw that lasted over two hours.  Only a portion on answers are included, and ellipses indicate where text was removed within answers. 

First, I was wondering if you can tell me about when you—if you remember when you first heard about these cases. When did it first come to your attention, and then how you first got involved? 

Somewhere between 1971 and 1972, I represented a young lady in a divorce in Mankato. We did a general practice, as well as a lot of [divorces]. 

Those years mostly what trial work was about was car wrecks and truck wrecks and things like that. But because of my background [Bradshaw was an engineering major before law school, and before setting up his practice worked in intellectual property law at a major corporation]  I began getting interested in product liabilities cases. And this was a time when the law changed as to products liability. I won’t bore you with the details as to how it changed but there were some very important, substantive changes in the law of products liability that made it that opened avenues to bring claims against a product manufacturer. 

So what happened next? 

So around the time I was telling you about, a lot of us younger lawyers and others that were getting interested in product liability got a lot more interested. I became involved about the same time in some other products cases and some other medical negligence cases. But product cases which involved mostly mechanical things, things that broke and equipment that failed and things like that. But I also became involved in a couple of medical negligence cases…that is, injuries due to doctors being careless. And so my attention is getting focused on these kind of things. 

And my client who I was representing in the divorce, came in and told me this story about something that had happened. She had had this intrauterine device put in and a terrible thing happened. The person I was explaining, we’ll call her Judith, Judith told me that it had perforated right through her uterus and gone out and lodged in her bowel. 

Thoughtfully the doctor, when he removed it, it was so peculiar that when the surgeon resected a portion of her bowel…he kept it in a jar of formalin with the IUD stuck right in the bowel. I was probably the only person in all of the Dalkon Shield litigation that had such an artifact. 

Oh wow. Was that important later on, to show? 

Sort of… I meant there was no doubt from the surgical report what happened, what he found, and he was a very good general surgeon that did it. But, but it’s pretty dramatic when you see it. 

So this case was in Minnesota then?

That case was in Mankato, Minnesota. And about the time that that happened, some other cases had been happening in a few places around the country that nobody quite knew…they hadn’t determined yet what the problem was. Except for a lawyer in Wichita, Kansas whose name was Bradley Post. Bradley Post later becomes my partner.

…About the time that this [when Judith first told him about her IUD injury] happened, I picked up a copy of the American Trial Lawyers Association Journal… and I read a report written by Brad Post … about the Deemer case, that’s about the time that the Deemer case went to trial.


And Brad went and tried the case and got a verdict rather, rather promptly. He’d done some discovery but didn’t have even a fraction of what we later discovered in the multi-district litigation. But he had a pretty good idea what happened and a couple of good expert witnesses….

But anyhow we would never forget the name of that case, Connie Deemer, because of the fact that it was the first one tried in the United States. There were, we handled hundreds of these cases ourselves, in our law firm later, Bradley Post and I, but I’ll come back to that. 

But anyway, so Judith had this injury, and I picked up the phone the minute I read it…I called Bradley. 

And Bradley said, “Arden, we now know based on the discovery we did in the Deemer case,” he said, “there might be there might be hundreds and hundreds of these cases out there.”

…I filed a case for this woman and when I did, it got publicity because it was, I’m quite sure, the first one filed in Minnesota or the Upper Midwest. And the minute it did like another three or four cases showed up. People called me, with cases from around Minnesota.”

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