When Jewis "J.J." McCoy got a settlement after he took the diabetes drug Avandia, the Kansas City, Mo., man hoped to achieve some financial stability.
He wanted to get a decent car after he had a vehicle repossessed in 2008. And he wanted to get caught up on bills. And he hoped that he wouldn't have to make the typical choice he has to make between ensuring his car is in decent shape or paying for heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer.
But the 68-year-old retiree said that what was "like a gold mine in my situation" ended up not being so after he received an undisclosed settlement from GlaxoSmithKline for using a drug that McCoy said left him with coronary artery disease, stroke-like transient ischemic attacks and heart arrhythmia.
There were long delays in his settlement funds being dispersed to him because of the possibility that there might be a lien asserted against his settlement by a private insurer that provides Medicare benefits.
While McCoy was waiting for his settlement proceeds, McCoy said he borrowed money against the settlement with 300 percent interest being charged on three loans. McCoy said that by the time he got the majority of his settlement minus a holdback in case a lien was asserted, he had only $800 left after he caught up on bills, paid back the loans, gave his children some money and paid his personal property taxes.
Thomas J. Preuss, a partner with the law firm that represents McCoy, Kansas City, Mo.-based Wagstaff & Cartmell, said liens cut against the ultimate goal of a plaintiffs attorney to get recovery for clients.
"You obviously want to get the most amount of money in your client's pocket as possible and you want to deal with it as timely as possible because these are people in tough spots," Preuss said.
McCoy is not alone in facing the reality that clearing up liens for health care provided by the government or by private insurers can protract the disbursement of settlement funds to plaintiffs.
"When we tell the court that a settlement has been reached we are at the very beginning of the process." said Donald C. Le Gower, an associate with Dechert practicing in the area of products liability and mass torts.
Le Gower said Dechert had cases that settled in January that are still being worked through the system to get liens cleared.