Client who sued Hagens Berman over failed Thalidomide case settles

by | Sep 25, 2020

From the PENNSYLVANIA RECORD, Thursday, September 24, 2020

PHILADELPHIA – With the case set to press on after a harsh ruling from the judge hearing it, the law firm Hagens Berman has reached a settlement with a disgruntled former client.

On Sept. 17, Carolyn Sampson and Hagens Berman reported a confidential settlement between the two. It followed Judge Paul Diamond’s rejection of a stay request from the firm as it fights claims over failed Thalidomide litigation.

“The sky has not fallen,” wrote U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond over the prominent Seattle law firm’s argument it needs more time to fight his order rejecting a transfer of the lawsuit to Texas. “Hagens Berman has not alleged any harm beyond the mere fact that the litigation will continue in this Court while the Firm petitions for mandamus.”

This is the second time Hagens Berman has tried to halt actions by Judge Diamond in litigation swirling around its ill-fated decision to represent people who claimed they were injured by Thalidomide. The drug was briefly on the market in the early 1960s until it was linked to severe birth defects in children whose mothers took it to prevent morning sickness.

The lawsuits collapsed after defendants obtained information showing the plaintiffs knew or should have known decades earlier that the drug was the cause of their deformities.

Judge Diamond ordered the firm to pay $145,000 in sanctions in 2015 over its behavior, which the law firm is still fighting. Hagens Berman ultimately dismissed many of the suits against lead defendant GlaxoSmithKline in what a special master described as a “suspicious” arrangement under which Glaxo also dropped its request for sanctions.

Then in a further development, the law firm informed the court one of its lawyers had falsified a medical expert’s report to convince a client to drop her claims.

The revelations led Sampson to sue the law firm earlier this year, accusing it of putting “the protection of its own financial, publicity, and reputational interests before those of the clients they recruited into a lawsuit without a fair disclosure of their chances of success.”

She didn’t formally allege legal malpractice, instead accusing the law firm of conspiracy and inflicting emotional and financial distress upon her.

Written by C. Jean Grover

C. Jean Grover is a marketing professional, mother of 4, and US thalidomide survivor born in 1962.