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Clients Sue Lawyer in FenPhen Class Action

HOUSTON (CN) - Three plaintiffs in a FenPhen drug liability class action say their law firm overcharged clients, taking more than $29 million for heart tests it performed on "tens of thousands" of potential clients who did not even join in the lawsuit. The three women sued George Fleming and Fleming & Associates in Harris County Court.

Plaintiffs Rebecca Wilson, Debbie McCullars-Vanderford and DeLaine Anderson-Carpenter say Fleming and his firm charged all their more than 8,000 FenPhen clients "approximately 54 percent of their total recovery as fees and expenses."

Wyeth's diet drug FenPhen was removed from the market in 1997 when it was found to be associated with heart disease.

"Under the guise of a 'study' by a Utah cardiologist named Dr. Paul Hopkins, Fleming devised a plan to charge clients, without their knowledge or informed consent, tens of millions of dollars Fleming and F&A spent for echocardiograms that turned out to be negative," according to the complaint.

The women say the "study" gave Fleming cover to "transform millions in unrecoverable costs" he spent trying to round up clients.

They claims that Fleming also defrauded clients by keeping millions of dollars in inflated fees for postage, copies, court costs, court reporters, experts, research, travel and interest from banks that financed his firm's activities.

The women say these fees had nothing to do with each individual client's case.

"In fact, defendants did not provide clients with any detailed breakdown of $40 million plus in total expenses that defendants charged to clients," the complaint states.

According to their settlement agreement, Wyeth told Fleming and his firm they would not recover attorney's fees unless 95 percent of their clients agreed to accept the settlement amounts, the three women say. They add that Wyeth said it would "not be involved in any way in allocating the money between Fleming and F&A's clients."

To persuade his clients to accept the offer, Fleming included false statements in the settlement documents, claiming the settlement was based on "Wyeth's conclusions regarding the grouping, subgrouping and level of recovery of each of our clients," according to the complaint.

Fleming fired his lead lawyer for the FenPhen litigation, who told him that the "negative echocardiogram" charges were inappropriate, and not fully disclosed by the settlement materials, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs seek exemplary damages, alleging breach of contract, fraud and conversion.

They are represented by Charles Kirklin of Houston.

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