I'm already getting the emails and phone calls for my prior column on the Vioxx settlement settlements in which my math showed that the average settlement, after liens, fee's and expenses will be about $50,000 for heart attack cases and about $18,000 for stroke cases. Apparently some people can't grasp how $4.85 billion can end up as such small amounts for the clients but today's Wall Street Journal article on the settlement further bolsters my case.
The facts are that the settlement amounts for Vioxx victims is going to be disappointingly small despite the appearance of there being a substantial amount of money available.
Let me copy for you the exact words from the Wall Street Journal regarding the amounts clients can expect and the first hint at the real lurking monster, Medicare, Medicaid and private health liens:
" Christopher Seeger, a lead plaintiffs lawyer who helped negotiate the settlement, estimates that, depending on issues such as age and risk factors, individual payouts would range from $50,000 to $100,000 on the low end to $1 million to $1.5 million on the high end, with an average of above $200,000. Those figures are subject to attorneys fees and expenses. Liens from government entities like Medicaid and Medicare would also apply against awards, he says. Plus, in some instances private health insurers may also pursue payment. An administrator will be assigned to help negotiate with the government, and the plaintiffs steering committee aims to try a version of that program for private carriers."
Take a look at those numbers, and remember the amounts quoted are gross settlement figures and do not include legal fees, expenses and the medical lien reimbursement. The high end cases typically involve high end medical expenses and the low end cases involve smaller medical liens. The net result is that I was pretty much dead on with the $200,000 average figure for heart attack victims of Vioxx, but after fees of approximately 35%, and another 3% to 5% in case expenses, you are going to have figures not quite near $100,000 before the medical liens are paid. Remember, these are the numbers they are using to try and get people to agree to join the settlement and are probably on the high side of reality.
The long and short of it is that the Vioxx settlement is going to be very disappointing to a large group of victims but there probably isn't a whole lot of options for them to pursue. It is what it is and now the attention will shift to see how many attorney's elect to opt into the settlement and who will opt out and try and look at other options.