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Prominent personal injury attorney Stanley M. Chesley of Waite, Schneider, Bayless & Chesley in Cincinnati, Ohio, has threatened to seek sanctions against plaintiffs’ counsel for allegedly falsely accusing him in court pleadings of conspiring with three Kentucky lawyers to misappropriate $126 million of a $200 million Kentucky fen-phen settlement. More than 400 former fen-phen plaintiffs seek a disgorgement of the money from Chesley, Shirley A. Cunningham Jr. of the Cunningham & Grundy Law Group and William J. Gallion, both of Lexington, Ky., and Melbourne Mills Jr. of the Law Offices of Melbourne Mills Jr. in Versailles, Ky., relating to the $200 million settlement they obtained in the fen-phen litigation. Abbott v. Chesley, No. 05-CI-00436 (Boone Co., Ky., Cir. Ct.) [Related document: Plaintiffs' fifth amended complaint] The trial court already ruled that Cunningham, Gallion and Mills breached their fiduciary duty to their clients when they paid themselves $126 million of the $200 million settlement. Chesley’s role and the disgorgement issue are set for trial this September. [Related document: Partial summary judgment order] Chesley insists that he received “not a penny more” than his fee for leading the settlement negotiations on the plaintiffs’ behalf. He maintains that he knew nothing of a letter allegedly drafted by a senior lawyer at his firm advising Mills’ clients of a second distribution of funds in his motion to strike plaintiffs’ response to his motion for the court to reconsider its order overruling his motion to dismiss � an event that he says occurred after his involvement the fen-phen litigation ended. He has reserved the right to seek sanctions against Angela M. Ford, a Lexington, Ky., solo practitioner who represents the fen-phen plaintiffs, for purportedly circumventing the court’s gag order on the case by posting allegedly libelous diatribes in pleadings in the case on her Web site. [Related document: Chesley's motion to strike] Ford counterpleads that Chesley’s characterization of her “unabashed effort to obtain publicity and to ‘try this case in the media’” is deplorable particularly because she merely responded to assertions that he made in his above-referenced motion. [Related document: Plaintiffs' response] Dianne Murray, the Boone County Circuit Court clerk, said that she is not aware of a gag order in this matter. Boone County’s first fen-phen lawsuit was filed in 1998, not long after one of the drugs in the diet medication was shown to cause heart disease and withdrawn from the market. There were 440 fen-phen plaintiffs when the litigation was settled in May 2001. Moore v. A.H. Robins, No. 98-CI-795 (Boone Co., Ky., Cir. Ct.) When questions about the settlement arose four years later, a number of fen-phen plaintiffs filed an action demanding an accounting from Chesley, Cunningham, Gallion, Mills and The Kentucky Fund for Health Inc., a self-serving “charitable fund” the Kentucky lawyers created from $20 million of the settlement. More than 400 plaintiffs eventually joined that action.

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