Appeals court hears arguments in Courtney drug-diluting case

Robert Courtney
Robert Courtney

The settlements that closed the case between victims of a drug-diluting pharmacist and two drug companies were improper and should be reopened, a lawyer told Missouri appeals judges Wednesday.

A lawyer representing the pharmaceutical companies said the settlement process was fair and the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals should respect the settlements overseen by a Jackson County circuit judge a decade ago.

Wednesday’s hearing was a critical step in the effort by some victims of pharmacist Robert Courtney’s drug-dilution scheme to reopen their cases against Eli Lilly and Co. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.

A Jackson County circuit judge last year denied that request, prompting Wednesday’s appeals hearing.

The initial suits against the drug companies in 2001 and 2002 said they were negligent in failing to uncover Courtney’s scheme. The companies denied the allegations but agreed to settle the claims for $72.1 million.

A lawyer told appeals judges Wednesday that the victims’ lawyers required plaintiffs to agree to the settlements without knowing how much they would receive, how the amounts would be determined or how many other victims were in the settlement pool.

“Knowing there were unknowns isn’t enough information for someone to knowingly give up their fundamental rights,” said lawyer William S. Ohlemeyer.

An attorney speaking for the drug companies reminded the judges that Lilly and Squibb had nothing to do with how the money was distributed. That procedure was established by the court.

“They want to do this over,” said lawyer Marie Spencer Woodbury. “They want to get more money.”