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Toxic Shock Syndrome Death Lawsuit Settled

Joyce Peterson Published: December 22, 1981

An attorney for a Stilwell man whose wife died of toxic shock syndrome last year said Monday that his client has tentatively agreed to end a lawsuit against a national tampon manufacturing company with an out-of-court settlement.

The $2.5 million suit, scheduled for trial Jan. 4, against International Playtex Inc. is the first to approach settlement among more than 200 similar suits filed across the county involving deaths from the disease.

Tulsa attorney John Zarbano declined to specify the amount of the settlement promised to the family of Janice Ritter. He said the agreement included a clause forbidding either party from disclosing the figure.

"They came up with enough money" to settle out of court, Zarbano said.

A report published in the Los Angeles Times put the settlement at $500,000, but Zarbano refused to confirm or deny that amount.

"I don't know where they got that, but they didn't get it from us or Playtex," the attorney said. "I'm not even going to say if that's right, wrong, high, low, close or in the ballpark."

The woman's husband, Jack Ritter, a Stilwell social worker, said Monday he was "very relieved" by the settlement. "I sure was dreading that court."

Zarbano said Ritter plans to use the settlement money to set up a trust fund for his two children.

The suit was filed in Muskogee federal court by the family of the 28-year-old Mrs. Ritter, who ran a babysitting service in her Stilwell home.

Mrs. Ritter became ill Nov. 9, 1980, and died five days later in a Tulsa hospital of what doctors diagnosed as toxic shock syndrome.

The suit claimed Mrs. Ritter contracted the disease as the result of her use of Playtex deodorant super tampons. National medical research studies have linked the use of tampons to the illness.

However, Zarbano said Playtex, by the out-of-court settlement, maked no admission of liability. Tampon manufacturers never have admitted, for legal purposes, that toxic shock syndrome and tampon use are related, he said.

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