May 27, 1998

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Craft v. Vanderbilt Settlement Proposed


NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Vanderbilt University and the plaintiffs in Craft v. Vanderbilt, a class-action suit filed on behalf of participants in a series of nutrition studies involving radiation that took place more than 50 years ago, today submitted a proposed $10 million settlement agreement to federal court in Nashville. The final terms must be approved by U.S. District Judge John Nixon, who has scheduled a hearing on the settlement for July 27, 1998.

Under the proposed terms of the settlement, Vanderbilt will pay $9.1 million of the total amount, with the Rockefeller Foundation, which provided some of the funds for the studies, contributing the remaining $900,000. The proceeds will be divided among the members of the class according to a court-approved process.

In a statement on the settlement, Vanderbilt Vice Chancellor for University Relations and General Counsel Jeff Carr said:

"This litigation has been difficult and costly for all parties. It arose from important collaborative studies, initiated by Vanderbilt University and the Tennessee Department of Health more than 50 years ago, that addressed iron deficiency during pregnancy, a significant nutritional problem at the time. The publication of the results of these studies contributed to the scientific understanding and prevention of iron deficiency anemia.

"The studies used a radioactive tracer, the most accurate scientific tool then available for measuring the rate of absorption of nutritional iron. Those conducting the studies believed that the use of the tracer posed no risk of harm to the participants, and the study, including the use of the radioactive tracer, was announced by the University, reported at the time by both Nashville newspapers, and published in the scientific literature.

"Vanderbilt's $9.1 million contribution to the $10 million settlement is substantial, but it is the right thing for the University to do under the circumstances and is both in the best interest of the members of the litigation class and the University. In aggregate, this litigation has already cost, in legal fees and expert witnesses, several million dollars before the case has been tried or appealed. Trial would be lengthy, difficult, and of uncertain outcome, in part because of the lapse of time since the studies and the unavailability of key witnesses. The settlement will be distributed under a plan that has been approved by the Court, thus assuring that it will provide equitable redress for those participating in the studies.

"In view of those proceedings, which are pending, Vanderbilt's comment at this time will be limited to this statement. We believe it is time to put this matter behind us and are pleased that the parties have reached a negotiated outcome without the need for a trial.


Vanderbilt University is a private research university of approximately 5,900 undergraduates and 4,300 graduate and professional students. Founded in 1873, the University comprises 10 schools, a public policy institute, a distinguished medical center and The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center. Vanderbilt offers undergraduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences, education and human development, engineering and music, and a full range of graduate and professional degrees.

For more news about Vanderbilt, visit the News and Public Affairs home page on the Internet at

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Document updated May 18, 1998.