Thursday, June 9, 2011

Seroquel Lawsuit - Are Plaintiff Law Firms working in their clients (injured parties) best interest or just their own?

Seroquel Lawsuit - Are Plaintiff Law Firms working in their clients (injured parties) best interest or just their own - The question of ethical legal practice!

This morning Pharmalot Web site posted an interview with NPR reporter Snigdha Prakash who gives a stunning glimpse inside the legal tort system & how it works with these large pharmaceutical backroom settlement wheeling and dealings . I have suspected for sometime that plaintiff law firms in the seroquel litigation that have consistently shown a subversive lack of interest in their clients cases, questions, and inquirers were not passing the smell test.  Now with this revealing interview & book we get a better picture of what is being hidden from injured parties in the seroquel litigation & the serious ethical breeches that maybe occurring.

from pharmalot - merck-vioxx-and-the-legal-system-author snigdha-explains/

In a new book, ‘All The Justice Money Can Buy,’ former National Public Radio reporter Snigdha Prakash, who was embedded with a team of plaintiffs’ lawyers for one of those trials, describes legal machinations, strategies and battles that eventually led Merck to reach a $5 billion settlement (see here). Along the way, she encounters a raft of outsized personalities - notably, plaintiff’s lawyer Mark Lanier and expert witness David Egilman - as she opens a window into the behind-the-scenes working of product-liability litigation and what it can mean for the ordinary patient.

Pharmalot: In your view, what was the most compelling take away from this whole episode?

Prakash: I think what really shocked me was the extent of the scientific manipulation. It had never occurred to me, and it’s probably quite naïve. I knew the tobacco industry played with science and I knew about accounting and financial fraud, because I had been a banking reporter. I understood about cooking numbers. But I didn’t understand about manipulating clinical trial data and couldn’t believe a company of Merck’s stature could be doing that. …I turned to epidemiologists and cardiologists and asked all these questions that a reporter asks. All these stupid questions. And I kept coming up against the fact that this very big company was really not treating people and human lives in the way you would expect them to. And you look around at the cultural and social landscape and you see, well, what I learned from covering litigation and trials before that is how hard it is to hold powerful corporate actors to account.

And it’s not just Merck and it’s not just the drug industry. It’s the financial industry. People lost their houses. People who invested their savings in their houses… There’s a common theme – a failure of government regulation. I think the theme I kept coming up against is that these were powerful actors and consumers trusted them. We think the government has our back. And we think if something goes wrong, the courts will come in and save us and protect us. In the case of pharmaceuticals, there are experts, doctors, who know what’s going on. But you’re out there by yourself. And it’s very hard to go after wrongdoing and make it right.

Pharmalot: What’s your take on the willingness and ability of the plaintiffs’ lawyers to come through for those who say there were harmed?

Prakash: Like any other group, they come in all shapes and sizes. Some of have different scruples and play different roles in the plaintiffs’ bar. Some collect cases and build inventories (of cases), although they don’t like to call it that. It’s clear that not all of these cases can be tried. But what do you with the cases? Everyone is interested in getting to the end game, which is clearing the dockets for judges. For Merck, it’s to make the mass tort go away. And for the plaintiffs’ lawyers, it’s to see a return from their investment, which can very large but takes a lot of money to go up against a big corporation. Their spending a pittance of what Merck spent, but it’s still real money.

What I walked away with is that it’s a business. At the end of the day, plaintiffs’ lawyers are pursuing their business interests and you have to hope their interests are aligned with yours as a plaintiff. Sometimes they are and sometimes they aren’t. Legal ethicists had problems with settlement terms. To receive a share, lawyers had to bring every single client along. I know they don’t like this formulation and so they effectively fired each client if they don’t come along

(read more here).

Pharmalot: Where are the weaknesses in this deal?

Zipursky: For one, look at the stipulation that says lawyers have to recommend this to their clients. They’re obligated to push the settlement. That conflicts with the obligation to do what’s best for the client. Why does this matter? Well, different people find different ways to go to court and challenge the validity of a settlement. Usually, that would be easier in a class action, and this isn’t a class action. But something that has a legally questionable provision can turn out to be a problem for everyone who is party to the agreement.


Now we don't know for sure at this juncture if the law firms in the Seroquel litigation have made this same type of backroom deal with AstraZeneca. What I do know is that I've been told this is a take or leave it settlement offer of an undisclosed amount & the law firms will not give out any more information than that, except endless drivel of misinformation about when the offer packets will be sent out (the dark secret).

We also know that many (if not all) involved law firms have either washed their web sites of seroquel information & updates, or placed notice they are no longer accepting Seroquel cases (was that move also part of the secret deal?).

These actions & the personal disinterest in clients concerns and inquiry no doubt leads to strong suspicions that these legal firms are looking out for their own financial and business interest first & foremost; which pretty much flies in the face of their professional, ethical, and legal obligation to represent their clients best interest.

Some might even construe these actions as constituting legal malpractice or worse yet FRAUD?

Feel free to leave a comment on this fact if there are any morally ethical and responsible law firms or attorney groups interesting in taking on seroquel litigants/cases once they have been thrown to the curb by their current representation, please leave your contact information....

1 comment:

  1. If a claimant were to drop out of the settlement offer will this reduce the legal firm's profit? How many would need to drop out to screw this up for the attorney's? I understand about the percentage of acceptance AZ is asking for, it appears to be varying amounts depending on the law firm, but it seems it wouldn't take much to dump this back in their laps. This is clearly a matter for the court and needs to go to trial.
    I want to run some numbers to bring this mess into perspective: Eli Lily paid Zyprexa users from a 1.4 BILLION settlement. AZ is offering a total of 540 million. The difference? Eli Lily was SUED IN COURT and AZ obviously dodged that bullet (for now).
    -Seroquel user, type II diabetic


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