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Kentucky’s highest court suspended three attorneys Thursday over questions about how they divided a $200 million settlement over the fen-phen diet drug. The ruling by the Kentucky Supreme Court came after a lower court judge found that the Lexington, Ky., attorneys breached their duty to about 440 clients they represented against drugmaker Wyeth. The plaintiffs were among tens of thousands who sued Wyeth, which pulled the fenfluramine half of fen-phen off the market in 1997 amid reports that some users had heart valve damage and a few had a deadly lung condition. Fen-phen was never an FDA-approved combination. The clients of William Gallion, Shirley Cunningham Jr. and Melbourne Mills received about $45 million in a 2001 settlement with Wyeth. The rest was split among attorneys and consultants, according to Linda Gosnell, chief counsel for the Kentucky Bar Association. “This is a case of absolute, unbridled greed,” Gosnell told the high court in arguments last week. The Bar’s Inquiry Commission recommended the suspensions. Mills said last week that he received about $23 million for his work, a number he said was within the 30 percent of his agreed-upon share. The lawyers’ defense attorney William E. Johnson acknowledged last week that his clients did not do a good accounting job in the case but called suspension of their law licenses “severe.” A judge resigned in February rather than face removal because of suspicion of profiting from the settlement. The state’s Judicial Conduct Commission said at the time that senior status special Judge Joseph Bamberger gave attorneys, including a personal friend, $86 million to $104 million from the settlement. In addition, he let more than $20 million be put into a charitable fund and then became a paid director of the fund, receiving $5,000 a month. Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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