A recent The Legal Intelligencer story, “Avandia Plaintiff Counsel Seek Approval of Nearly $144 Mil. in Fees,” reports that as the federal Avandia MDL draws to a close after 65,000 claims have been winnowed down to between 500 to 600 cases, over 150 lawyers from over 50 plaintiffs law firms are seeking court approval of the dispersal of up to $143.75 million in attorney fees as well as costs undertaken for the common benefit of the entire mass tort litigation. The attorney fee request is estimated to be 6.25 percent of the settlements reached in the litigation. The five-year-old litigation is over the diabetes drug Avandia, made by drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
Joseph J. Zonies, a Denver plaintiffs attorney with Reilly Pozner who was part of the Plaintiffs Steering Committee (PSC), testified that the work undertaken in the Avandia litigation meets the requirements under Gunter v. Ridgewood Energy of a fee that is appropriate to the risk of the undertaking, to the quality of the lawyers involved, to the quality of the work involved, and to the benefit conferred upon the mass tort claimants. Another Gunter factor is the risk of nonpayment, Zonies said.
The individual PSC members were each “carrying costs” of $750,000 to $1 million, Zonies said. The plaintiffs also formed a virtual law firm in order to handle the litigation. Over 30 million documents were produced by GSK, which were all online and accessed by lawyers around the country through a secure portal, Zonies said. Close to 147,000 hours were submitted for common benefit work, and over 134,000 work hours were approved by the forensic account retained by the plaintiffs counsel.
As an example of the in-depth work required in the litigation, Zonies described the PSC visiting defense counsel Pepper Hamilton’s law office to go through 400 dusty boxes of GSK documents related to its initial new drug application for Avandia to the federal Food and Drug Administration. Trips were taken to take depositions at GSK’s London offices, Zonies said, and multiple experts in the fields of biostatistics, cardiology, epidemiology, endocrinology, federal regulations and marketing were worked with around the country and even aboard.