On November 26, 1999 U.S. District Judge Louis Bechtle of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania gave preliminary approval for a proposed class settlement of thousands of fen-phen and redux lawsuits filed against American Home Products Corporation. American Home Products Corporation which owns Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories and J. H. Robins Company has agreed to pay as much as 3.75 billion dollars to complete this settlement.
A final hearing on the fairness of the settlement is scheduled for May of 2000. Approval of the settlement is far from certain. Many of the trial lawyers who have filed the lawsuits around the country are likely to object to the settlement and have criticized the settlement for not providing any significant compensation to persons with mild and moderate injuries caused by the drugs. For example, Debbie Lovett, who received a 23 million dollar jury verdict in Texas against AHP would, under this proposed settlement, not be entitled to any monetary compensation had she chosen to wait and to try to participate in the class action settlement. Her case was settled prior to appeal for 1.8 million partly because of some Texas "tort reform" laws that would have reduced her verdict to close to that amount.
It has been estimated that the proposed settlement does not offer any money for compensatory damages to settle even a majority of the cases that have been filed because the level of injury required to qualify under the "settlement grid" is so high.
A significant part of the proposed settlement involves "medical monitoring funds" which would pay for a medical test called an echocardiogram and a physician's visit for persons who took fen-phen or redux. But to take advantage of this offer of medical testing a person must waive any right to punitive damages against the company. Part of the proposed settlement fund is also for medical research.
The proposed settlement could offer some advantages to some injured persons who live in states where the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit has expired. The proposed settlement, if approved, will revive those claims that are now time barred. There may be some other advantages to some persons who can participate in the class settlement but they are difficult to find in the lengthy and complex settlement agreement. It is easy to find many medical definitions in the agreement that are slanted in favor of the Company and against those attempting to prove injury. For example, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a definition of heart valve injury from the drugs that is far broader than the definition of heart valve injury in the settlement agreement. The FDA threshold for causation was at least moderate mitral valve leakage and at least mild aortic valve leakage. This standard has been adopted by the American Heart Association as well. However, the settlement agreement has much stricter requirements before an individual is entitled to compensation in the "settlement grid" set forth in the agreement. The settlement grid has requirements that are not even part of most echocardiograms.
Surprisingly, the settlement does not cover persons who have developed Primary Pulmonary Hypertension(PPH), a potentially lethal lung disease. However, the definition of Primary Pulmonary Hypertension in the settlement agreement is somewhat unorthodox leading some lawyers to believe there may be a hidden trap in the settlement if persons with PPH do not specifically "opt out" of the settlement.
All persons injured by the drugs have a right to "opt out" of the proposed settlement and pursue an individual lawsuit and it is expected that most seriously injured persons will do so. The Company has also retained a right to back out of the settlement if too many persons "opt out" of the settlement. However, it is believed by most lawyers that the Company is unlikely to back out even if a large number of people "opt out" of the settlement.
There is also the possibility that Judge Bechtle or an appellate court could find that this proposed settlement is unconstitutional. A person who does not know they have a claim, or does not yet have a claim because the injury develops later could find that their due process right to go to court has been denied because they did not opt out of the class and were therefore included in the class settlement.
The evaluation of these fen-phen and redux cases is primarily through the findings on echocardiogram. Our firm is willing to review without charge or any obligation to you any echocardiograms which are emailed to us though our contact page or faxed to us at 727-577-9696.
We will provide a written response concerning each echocardiogram we receive. However, we cannot agree to provide legal representation to you without the specific signing of a written contract after we review your echocardiogram. If you are outside the State of Florida and you would like us to locate a lawyer in your area to represent you we can make an attempt to do so for you.