In court motions filed in Philadelphia, the American Home Products Settlement Trust said the company, EchoMotion, of Chapel Hill, N.C., was set up specifically to help class-action lawyers determine whether prospective clients qualified for a share of the $3.75 billion settlement.
EchoMotion technicians, the trust said, created an “assembly line” that performed between 60,000 and 75,000 echocardiograms on people who took the drugs Pondimin and Redux.
The trust said the echocardiograms were not supervised by a certified cardiologist or cardiothoracic surgeon, as the settlement required. Trust officials also accused EchoMotion technicians of being pressured by at least one law firm into taking measurements that overestimated the degree of valve malfunction.
The request is just the latest in a string of steps taken by trust officials to weed out what they say are a large number of bogus claims filed by unscrupulous lawyers in an attempt to profit from people who aren’t sick.
Earlier this year the trust began auditing thousands of applications after a federal judge found some had been prepared improperly. In September it filed a lawsuit against a Kansas City-area cardiologist, alleging that she diagnosed thousands of people as being ill without properly examining them.
Several firms representing diet drug plaintiffs have accused the trust of unnecessarily delaying payments to people with real injuries. New York attorney Mark Bern said he believes the trust’s real goal is to protect a fund that has turned out to be far too small.
“The trust was set up to compensate 6,000 or 7,000 people at the most, and you now have 83,000 people who have signed up,” he said. “I don’t think they can have any idea how they can legitimately keep this trust from going bankrupt, unless they put in billions more dollars.”