Law School Acquires Famed Tort Case Papers

Harvard Law School's Langdell Library is set to acquire the copious legal papers of the plaintiffs in a landmark mass tort case.

The collection amassed by the plaintiffs in the Dalkon Shield case, a series of lawsuits against the makers of a flawed contraceptive that lasted for almost a quarter-century, is one of the largest such collections in the country.

The Ohio law firm Brown and Szaller donated the papers.

The gift will "allow students to become familiar with the kinds of materials they'd see in a mass tort case," said David R. Warrington, librarian for special collections at the law school.

Brown and Szaller Managing Attorney James F. Szaller, who had been involved in the suits' litigation since 1975, decided to donate the massive archive to Harvard because the files would otherwise have been destroyed.

Szaller said he believes the collection is an ideal case study in mass tort and product liability law. Since the law is always evolving, he said, the completeness and breadth of the material will offer law students an opportunity to see the development of one of the earliest mass tort cases during its lengthy time in court.

Mass tort cases are a relatively new and increasingly important field. Dalkon Shield was one of the first such cases and helped establish U.S. legal precedent on the subject.

At various times, nearly 100 firms from around the world used the data compiled by Brown and Szaller to pursue civil actions against the makers of the Dalkon Shield, an intrauterine contraceptive introduced in the American market in 1971 by the A. H. Robins Company.