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Stay sought in diet drug litigation

(1/19/2005) - P.R. Newswire reports that diet drug maker Wyeth and certain lawyers representing thousands of filed lawsuits have jointly asked Philadelphia Federal District Court to approve a stay of litigation to allow the parties to move forward with a settlement process that is expected to resolve thousands of lawsuits. According to the press release, the stay, which has been requested, will only apply to those plaintiffs who wish to participate in the process and can be automatically lifted if the settlement process does not result in a final settlement.  In order to participate in the process law firms wishing to participate must elect to do so by February 15, 2005, according to the release.

Newswire reports that Wyeth will negotiate with individual law firms to resolve their cases using one of two models: either an expedited pay option which requires less documentation and is designed to result in quicker payments, or a methodology using a settlement grid which characterizes medical conditions by age and nature of injury, and allows for payments accordingly. Joining Wyeth in making this motion is Jerry Alexander, Ellen Presby and Wayne Spivey of Philadelphia who is counsel for several thousand plaintiffs to whom he intends to recommend this settlement.

In a press statement, Spivey said, "the two settlement vehicles which have been negotiated represent a fair resolution to what has been very contentious litigation.  Law firms representing thousands of claimants have already indicated a desire to participate and we expect many more will make this election by the February 15 deadline.  Except for cases which are immediately set for trial, Wyeth has shown little interest in resolving cases using any other procedure."

"I think this is a reasonable compromise of difficult litigation and will allow thousands of people and Wyeth to avoid the uncertainties of trying to resolve this many lawsuits.  I intend to recommend this to all of my clients." Kip Petroff.

Also, Jim Morris of the Provost & Umphrey law firm in Beaumont, Texas said, "I am pleased that a resolution is occurring that provides fair compensation for all of our clients."

Wyeth recently committed to contributing an additional $1.275 billion to the original National Diet Drug Settlement separately funding a payment vehicle referred to as the Seventh Amendment. A hearing with respect to the fairness of the Seventh Amendment is scheduled to commence on January 18, 2005, before the Honorable Harvey J. Bartle.  It is widely expected that Judge Bartle will approve the Seventh Amendment that, together with the initiation of the settlement process announced today, may be a significant step in bringing the diet drug litigation to a conclusion.


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