FEN-PHEN: Ads Encourage Users to ‘Opt Out’ of Settlement
Despite a proposed $3.75 billion settlement in the fen-phen class action lawsuit against American Home Products (AHP), individual litigation is likely to be brought against the company by those who decide to "opt out" of the settlement, the New York Times reports. Former fen-phen users in New York were notified of Thursday's "opt out" deadline by a series of radio and television ads run by the Manhattan law firm Weitz & Luxenberg, which users warned that "their chances of being fairly compensated might be in jeopardy" and urged those affected to call the firm to "investigate [their] legal options." A Web site by the New York law firm Napoli, Kaiser & Bern also is "highly critical of the proposed class action settlement," issuing similar warnings and offering to provide forms for those who want to withdraw from the suit. Weitz & Luxenberg partner Robert Gordon said his firm's ads are a "public service to alert people to deadlines they might not know about and to let them know they may do better" with an individual suit. The attorneys have taken on 25 cases of the 200 responses logged by the firm, Gordon said, noting that many callers were told to "stick with the class settlement plan 'if they don't have a significant claim.'" He added, "I'm not saying the plan is bad, only that it's not right for every case." Roughly 7,000 individual suits have been filed by former users of the diet pill who claim to have experienced heart valve damage. According to the terms of the settlement, those who do not opt out would receive payments ranging between $7,400 and $1.5 million depending upon age and degree of damage. But if too many people withdraw from the class action agreement to pursue individual litigation, AHP can dissolve the settlement (Fried, 3/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.