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The day my ship came in

July 2, 2015
By Joyce Schenk , Westfield Republican

I picked up the mail that morning and scanned it quickly to see if there was anything of interest.

Surprisingly, there was an intriguing envelope buried in the usual crop of credit-card offers, real estate fliers and new car deals.

The return address on the official-looking piece read, "Subpoena Antitrust Litigation Settlement Fund."

Why in the world was I receiving this impressive notice? Had my name simply come up on some attorney's list of unsigned clients?

When I opened the fascinating envelope, I was greeted with: "Dear Consumer of Relafen."

I dimly recalled that in some long-ago period, I had taken the drug, but I have taken so many over the years, I had all but forgotten this one.

In bold letters under the opening was the announcement, "This letter includes a check from a Court approved settlement. Please read this letter carefully."

OK, I definitely wouldn't throw this one in the trash.

But, before going straight to the end for the promised check, I decided to slow down and read the information detailing why I was chosen to receive this windfall, whatever it might be.

My mind was racing with questions. Yes, I did vaguely remember taking the medicine the letter mentioned, but how on earth did those bringing the suit know that?

Apparently, the resourceful law firm handling the litigation had gotten Court authorization to subpoena information from "the ten largest retail pharmacy providers and five largest mail-order pharmacies." From that information, they compiled a list of folks who had taken the medication from September 1, 1998 through June 30, 2003.

These records led them to me.and, undoubtedly, to thousands of others.

The letter went on to assure me the lawsuit was not brought for any health problems suffered by users of the medicine. Instead, it was based on the allegation that "all persons who paid for a prescription of the brand-named drug (or its generic version) during the period, paid too much." The suit stated the defendants violated federal and state antitrust laws"for unjust enrichment."

Even though I'd never heard a whisper of this high-level legal battle, and had never applied to be a part of it, I was included by virtue of my history of taking the medication.

The letter also stressed that my personal medical information had not been compromised by the suit nor by the information gathering involved.

After reading the document thoroughly, I decided the settlement was in the best interest of all of us "little folks" out here in pill-popping land.

I was especially encouraged that "the settlement provides $75 million to those who purchased Relafen or its generic version for use during the Class Period. Individual consumers will share $25 million of the settlement" while employee benefit plans and insurance companies shared the remaining $50 million.

With this as an introduction to the check, hidden in the back of the letter, I could hardly wait to see what eye-popping amount was my part of this lawsuit lottery.

As I turned to the check, I could almost feel the wind in my hair as my long-awaited ship approached the dock.

But, apparently, windfalls come in many sizes.

My check from the Antitrust Litigation Settlement Fund was a whopping $12.26.

When my ship finally came in, it turned out to be just another leaky little rowboat.



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