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Ralph Nader Group Claims Victory For Getting Attorneys’ Fees Reduced

March 8, 1996

CINCINNATI (AP) _ Lawyers will be paid $10.2 million instead of the $33 million they sought for representing patients worldwide in a lawsuit over a heart valve blamed in hundreds of deaths.

Public Citizen Inc., the Ralph Nader consumer group, said Thursday it helped persuade a federal judge to reduce by one-third the lawyers’ fees and expenses.

The lawyers represented patients who in 1991 sued the heart valve’s manufacturer, Shiley Inc., based in Irvine, Calif., and its parent company, New York-based Pfizer Inc.

The suit alleged that recipients of the Bjork-Shiley Convexo-Concave valve could die if the valve fractured. Doctors implanted 86,000 of the valves before they were taken off the market in 1986.

Failure of a tiny strut in the valve has been blamed for the deaths of more than 360 people.

Public Citizen said the lawyer’s fees would take too much money out of a settlement fund that will be used to pay claims to patients.

``Simply stated, $33 million is entirely too much money for legal fees, given the facts and circumstances of this case,″ U.S. District Judge John F. Nangle wrote in his Feb. 29 order.

Cincinnati lawyer Stanley Chesley, lead counsel among attorneys representing the valve recipients, said Friday that the fee request was not excessive. He said that amounted to 20 percent of the available fund to pay the fees, which he said was a customary request.

But Chesley and Public Citizen disagreed over the value of the fund, which is to pay claims until all eligible recipients or beneficiary spouses have died. Chesley estimated the total at $500 million. Public Citizen said it was $190 million.

Chesley said he will ask Nangle to authorize payment of an additional $400,000 for his law firm.

Nangle granted Public Citizen’s request for $105,037 in fees for arguing in behalf of patients. Nangle wrote that Public Citizen’s advice was invaluable in helping him award fee payments.

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