Healthcare giant Becton Dickinson & Co. (NYSE:BDX) may finally close the books on a years-long lawsuit after a New Jersey judge authorized a $45 million settlement to the company’s hypodermic product purchasers.
If finalized, the settlement would resolve complaints initially raised in 2005 by Becton’s hypodermic needle purchasers, which claimed that the company had schemed illegally to artificially increase the prices for its products.
Medical device and drug wholesaler Louisiana Wholesale Drug Company filed the class action lawsuit against Becton in March 2005, accusing the company of conducting "an anticompetitive scheme which involved a series of improper unilateral and conspiratorial acts" that drove up prices for its hypodermic needle products.
"Becton’s improper scheme worked to exclude, limit and/or deter competition from other actual and/or potential Hypodermic Product manufacturers," according to the legal complaint. "Absent defendant’s anticompetitive product, Plaintiff and other Class members would have paid less than they actually did for the Hypodermic Products that they bought during the class period."
The parties came to a tentative agreement in April 2009 in which Becton was to pay $45 million to resolve the lawsuit, but the settlement got tied up in further disputes between LWD Co. and other plaintiffs over which parties represented Becton’s true direct buyers and rightful recipients of the settlement funds.
Supply distributors and healthcare providers dragged the case on for 3 years as they fought over which parties were entitled to what share of the settlement, with suppliers claiming they were directly injured by Becton’s allegedly inflated prices and healthcare providers arguing that the suppliers only suffered about a quarter of the impact of the alleged monopoly.
The distributors won a preliminary decision this month over healthcare providers, with U.S. District Judge Jose Linares ruling in their favor that they represent the direct buyers of Becton’s hypodermic needle products.