The judge presiding over the entire Avandia multidistrict litigation has approved the distribution of nearly $144 million in Avandia attorney fees and costs undertaken for the common benefit of the entire litigation in the wake of attorneys settling objections to how the funds were divided.

U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania previously gave approval to the overall amount to be paid for common benefit work regarding lawsuits of people who used the diabetes drug. When objections were raised to how the funds were to be distributed, Rufe appointed special master Bruce P. Merenstein of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis to mediate the dispute.

Merenstein said in a report to the court that nine firms had their allocations of the common benefit fund adjusted following the mediation. The mediation was from December 19 until January 16.

As a result, Merenstein recommended that the potential recovery be approved for 58 firms. At least six firms are looking at potential fees in excess of $10 million each, according to Merenstein’s recommendations.

The common benefit fund was seeded by a 7 percent assessment levied on all Avandia claims settled within the MDL or in state-court cases in which plaintiffs lawyers chose to receive the benefit of the discovery and other work product undertaken within the MDL.

During the hearing Rufe held on approving the common benefit attorney fees, The Legal reported that the individual plaintiffs steering committee members were each carrying costs of $750,000 to $1 million.

The collective fee amount initially approved by Rufe makes up 6.25 percent of the estimated aggregate value of the settlements in the litigation. Rufe also authorized that $10.1 million be held in reserve for the payment of future administrative fees and expenses.

Dianne M. Nast, Vance R. Andrus, Bryan Aylstock, Thomas P. Cartmell, Stephen Corr, Paul R. Kiesel, Bill Robins III and Joseph J. Zonies were members of the committee that developed the plan for the allocation of the common benefit fund.

The highest amounts will go to a dozen firms:

• $22.6 million based upon a lodestar of $8.1 million and 18,232 hours of work by Reilly Pozner of Denver.

• $17.2 million based upon a lodestar of $4.6 million and 8,407 hours of work by Aylstock Witkin Kreis & Overholtz of Pensacola, Fla.

• $17.2 million based upon a lodestar of $5.8 million and 12,424 hours of work by Wagstaff & Cartmell.

• $14.7 million based upon a lodestar of $3.5 million and 6,397 hours of work by Andrus Hood & Wagstaff of Denver.

• $10.3 million based upon a lodestar of $3 million and 6,546 hours of work by Miller & Associates of Houston.

• $10.3 million based upon a lodestar of $4.7 million and 11,344 hours of work by Heard Robins Cloud & Black of Houston.

• $6.3 million based upon a lodestar of $2 million and 4,164 hours of work by NastLaw of Philadelphia.

• $5.2 million based upon a lodestar of $2.7 million and 7,842 hours of work by Sanders Viener Grossman of Mineola, N.Y.

• $4.9 million based upon a lodestar of $1.9 million and 3,667 hours of work by Kiesel Boucher & Larson of Beverly Hills, Calif.

• $4.3 million based upon a lodestar of $2 million and 5,215 hours of work by the Anderson Law Offices of Cleveland.

• $3.6 million based upon a lodestar of $1.8 million and 4,086 hours of work by Lanham Blackwell of Bangor, Maine.

• $3 million based upon a lodestar of $884,905 and 1,516 hours of work by Mellon & Webster of Bucks County, Pa.

Lodestars are calculated by multiplying the number of hours worked on the case by the counsel’s reasonable hourly billing rates.

Other Pennsylvania firms set to receive distributions of the common benefit fee are: $269,278 based upon a lodestar of $213,133 and 457 hours of work by Anapol Schwartz in Philadelphia; $42,241 based upon a lodestar of $33,326 and 59 hours of work by Feldman & Pinto in Philadelphia; and $54,688 based upon a lodestar of $43,061 for 148 hours of work by Lundy & Lundy in Philadelphia.

Between October 16, 2007, and February 14, 2012, "common benefit counsel and other members of their firms spent more than 134,000 hours preparing and litigating this case for the common benefit of all claimants," Rufe said in an opinion approving the overall fee amount. "The time that common benefit counsel devoted to this case supports the reasonableness of the requested attorneys’ fees, as shown by a comparison to the hours spent in other super-mega-fund cases in which requests for attorneys’ fees have been approved."

The plaintiffs counsel billed $185 an hour for paralegals and rates for attorneys starting at $225 an hour and ranging up through $285, $380, $475 and $595 an hour, according to Rufe’s opinion.

Amaris Elliott-Engel can be contacted at 215-557-2354 or aelliott-engel@alm.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisTLI.