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Case Type: Products liability Case: Lopez v. American Home Products Corp., No. 99-0737723 (Dist. Ct., Jim Wills Co., Texas) Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Kathryn Snapka and Gregory Turman of Corpus Christi, Texas’ Law Offices of Kathryn Snapka; Antonio Martinez and Trey Martinez of Brownsville, Texas’ Martinez & Barrera Defense Attorneys: J.A. Canales of Corpus Christi’s Canales & Simonson; Randall Christian of Austin’s Clark, Thomas & Winter; Steven G. Reade of Washington D.C.’s Arnold & Porter; William R. Murray Jr. of Washington, D.C.’s Williams & Connolly; Joseph Piorkowski Jr. of Washington, D.C. Jury Verdict: $56.55 million Gloria Lopez, a 48-year-old school cafeteria supervisor, in April 1997 began taking the drug pondimin, the fenfluramine portion of the weight-reduction medication fen-phen in order to lose a few pounds, said plaintiff’s attorney Gregory Turman. The drug was effective, and Lopez lost 10 pounds over a five-month period, he said. But it left her with a severe, irreversible defect in her aortic valve that will eventually require valve replacement surgery, he said. Following the diagnosis, Lopez sued the maker of Pondimin, American Home Products Corp., along with its affiliates Wyatt-Ayerst Laboratories Co. and A.H. Robins Co., charging that the medication had caused her heart problems. This heart valve defect, Turman said, “is a known side effect of fen-phen. Ultimately it was the reason the drug was removed from the market.” American Home has offered $3.75 billion to settle the claims of fenfluramine users; Lopez opted out of the settlement. The plaintiff concentrated on proving that the drug was not only defective, but that American Home had engaged in “fraudulent concealment,” said Turman. Lopez began taking the drug in April 1997. Adverse drug events had been reported to American Home by the Mayo Clinic in February 1997, Mr. Turman said. Even before this, “as far back as 1991, and for sure by 1992-93, [American Home was] aware that the drug should have been removed from the market, but they failed to inform the public.” The company had received adverse reports during these years, he charged, “which were entered into the American Home data base and subsequently destroyed by safety surveillance manager Amy Myers, at the suggestion of one of her superiors.” American Home contended that Lopez’s heart valve problems were caused by hypertension, not fenfluramine. The company also denied any intentional concealment. But the jury recently awarded Lopez $11.55 million in actual and $45 million in punitives. Because the jury found fraudulent concealment, Turman said, the Texas cap on punitives does not apply.

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