A federal judge in Texas said on Friday that he would sign a $110 million settlement today in a class action involving the death of scores of premature babies who received a vitamin E supplement during the 1980s.
Judge Sidney Fitzwater, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, said that he would give final approval to the E-Ferol class action settlement. The lawsuit, which alleged that about 40 babies died from intravenous doses of E-Ferol, involved a class of 369 plaintiffs.
The case was filed in 2003 after nearly 90 hospitals had administered the supplement to premature infants to help prevent blindness and visual impairments. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had not approved E-Ferol's use, although the class alleged that the companies that manufactured and distributed it led hospitals to believe that it had received such approval.
The defendants were manufacturer Carter-Glogau Laboratories Inc. and distributor O'Neal, Jones & Feldman Inc., which are no longer in business. The executives of those companies were convicted of conspiracy and other charges in 1987. The settlement money will come from the companies' insurers.
The class alleged that E-Ferol caused liver and kidney failure and brain bleeds in the children. It followed an investigation conducted during the early 1980s by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that prompted a recall of E-Ferol. The investigation led to settlements for as many as 50 other infant deaths before the class action was filed. The court certified the class in 2004. The investigation determined that an ingredient in E-Ferol, the emulsifier Polysorbate 80, caused the symptoms.
Art Brender of the Law Offices of Art Brender in a Fort Worth, Texas, was lead counsel for the plaintiffs. The plaintiff attorney fee award amounts to 30 percent of the settlement payout plus reimbursement of expenses.
The judge's final approval of the settlement, Brender said, will provide his clients with some emotional relief. "These women who lost these children said they felt like there was something that they should have done that they didn't. They finally realize that nothing was their fault," he said.
Representing the defendants was Barry Chasnoff, a partner in the San Antonio office of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. He did not respond to a message seeking comment.