The parties in Fen Phen Trial


 Joseph “Jay” Bamberger: The judge
Joseph “Jay” Bamberger, 65
The Covington native was the only circuit judge in Boone and Gallatin counties for 12 years, during which time he presided over the $200 million fen-phen settlement.
He stepped down as circuit judge in December 2003 to become a senior judge, who travels around the state to relieve backlogged dockets. The move meant he would no longer preside over a priest-abuse case brought against the Covington Diocese in Boone Circuit Court. His decision to retire came as diocesan attorneys were attempting to have him disqualified because he was a close friend of the plaintiffs’ trial consultant, Mark Modlin.
Bamberger resigned as a senior judge in February 2006 to avoid being removed by Kentucky’s Judicial Conduct Commission, in part, for alleged misconduct in the fen-phen case. The commission’s order stated that Bamberger did not disclose his personal relationship with Modlin, who also was a consultant in the fen-phen case.
Bamberger is living in retirement in Burlington. His retirement benefits were reduced by about $3,665 a month – a 39.5 percent decrease – when he abruptly retired as senior judge. He receives an estimated $5,613 monthly for 22 years of public service.
Angela Ford: Plaintiffs’ new lawyer

 The Louisville native’s first contact with Cincinnati lawyer Stan Chesley involved the priest-abuse case against the Covington Diocese that he got certified as a class-action lawsuit.
Ford, who practices in Lexington, represented about two dozen people in central and eastern Kentucky in 2003 who claimed priests in the Covington Diocese abused them. Her clients opted out of the class action and pursued individual settlements that totaled in the millions of dollars. Chesley later accused the diocese of trying to settle as many sex-abuse claims as possible in a failed attempt to derail the class-action suit.
Ford then sued Chesley, Shirley Cunningham Jr., William Gallion and Melbourne Mills Jr. on behalf of about 400 people who were sickened by fen-phen. She claimed the four lawyers defrauded her clients out of more than half of a $200 million settlement with the diet-drug manufacturer.
She attended the University of Kentucky College of Law and Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, where she received her law degree. She went on to serve on the state Council for Higher Education, the University of Louisville Board of Trustees and as general counsel for the Kentucky Cabinet for Human Resources.

Stan Chesley: Cincinnati lawyer

Stan Chesley, 71
The Indian Hill resident burst onto the national scene by representing victims of the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire that killed 165 people in May 1977 in Southgate. He has built a practice on class-action lawsuits, including fen-phen.
He is married to U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott. In September, the couple held a $2,300-per-person fund raiser at their French chateau-style home for Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. He previously has raised millions for other Democrats, including Bill Clinton.
Chesley received national attention by being the first lawyer in the United States to get a priest-abuse case certified as a class-action lawsuit. The judge in the case was Joseph “Jay” Bamberger, and the trial consultant was Mark Modlin.
Chesley has been named as a defendant in a civil case brought by victims of fen-phen. The suit alleges Chesley and fellow lawyers Shirley Cunningham Jr., William Gallion and Melbourne Mills Jr. defrauded them of millions of dollars. The portion of the civil case involving Chesley has been put on hold while the plaintiffs wait for a ruling from the Kentucky Court of Appeals on an issue in the case
William Gallion, 56
The Lexington lawyer built a practice defending the University of Kentucky hospital in malpractice cases before getting involved in the fen-phen litigation.
He now claims Sanibel, Fla., as his primary residence and dabbles in racehorses. He and Shirley Cunningham Jr. have a minority stake in Curlin, a favorite for Horse of the Year honors. A state judge has ruled that clients from the Kentucky fen-phen case have a claim to the 20 percent share of Curlin owned by Cunningham and Gallion to help cover a $42 million civil judgment entered against the two minority owners and Melbourne Mills Jr.
Gallion’s former law firm sued him over allegations that he did not share fees from the fen-phen case and others. An out-of-court settlement was reached. Gallion started his own firm.
Two bouncers at an adult nightclub entered pleas to harassment after Gallion accused them in February 2001 of injuring him as they kicked him out of the club.The bouncers claimed in court documents that Gallion and a friend did not pay for dancing with a pair of nude dancers.
Gallion has been locked up in the Boone County jail since Aug. 10. awaiting a Jan. 7 trial on conspiracy to commit wire fraud charges in connection with the fen-phen case. Federal prosecutors claim he received $30 million from the fen-phen settlement.
Melbourne Mills Jr., 76
His advertising made him one of the most recognizable faces in central Kentucky over the past three decades. His slogan to people in trouble with the law was simple: “Call the Man.”
Mills, who owns a vacation home in Hilton Head, S.C., has made other headlines, too. He paid $125,000 to settle a sexual harassment suit brought by a paralegal. She alleged in court records that Mills worked in his underwear and touched her.
Another former Mills employee also sued him. She claimed she was owed money for suggesting that her boss sue the maker of fen-phen with Shirley Cunningham Jr. and William Gallion. A Lexington jury ordered Mills to pay her $900,000, but a judge has since reversed the judgment. The case is under appeal.
Mills has been locked up in the Boone County jail since Aug. 10. awaiting a Jan. 7 trial on conspiracy to commit wire fraud charges in connection with the fen-phen case. Federal prosecutors allege his cut of the settlement was $24 million.
Shirley Cunningham Jr., 53
The Georgetown resident is a minority owner of Curlin, the winning horse in the $5 million Breeder’s Cup Classic on Oct. 27 in Oceanport, N.J.
Named after Cunningham’s great-grandfather, a slave who fought for the Confederate Army, Curlin was bought by Cunningham and William Gallion as a yearling for $57,000. The two lawyers later sold 80 percent interest in Curlin to San Francisco investment banker George Bolton and stables owned by the founder of Kendall-Jackson wines and a dot.com millionaire from Florida.
A state judge has since ruled that clients from the Kentucky fen-phen case have a claim to the 20 percent share of Curlin owned by Cunningham and Gallion. It will help cover a $42 million civil judgment that Judge William Wehr entered in Boone County Circuit Court against the two minority owners.
Cunningham also is embroiled in a controversy in Florida. He donated $1 million to Florida A&M University with some of the money from the fen-phen case, according to federal prosecutors. Auditors with the state of Florida claim Cunningham was then named to a $100,000-per-year endowed chair despite not doing any work for the university.
While no criminal charges were filed in Florida, federal prosecutors want to use evidence gathered during an investigation of the donation in a criminal case against Cunningham in U.S. District Court in Covington. Cunningham has been locked up in the Boone County jail since Aug. 10 awaiting a Jan. 7 trial on conspiracy to commit wire fraud charges in connection with the fen-phen case. Federal prosecutors say he paid himself $21 million from the fen-phen settlement.

CENTERVILLE, Ohio – Fen-phen victim Patricia Kennedy says lawyer Melbourne Mills Jr. had her drive from her home in northern Alabama to the Florence Mall in spring 2002 to pick up a settlement check from the maker of the diet drug that damaged her heart.
She did not even know if her 1989 Buick would make the eight-hour drive from Summerville, Ala., or if the settlement would even cover her gas, because workers in Mills’ office refused to talk about fen-phen over the phone.
Kennedy would not comment on what she received, but Boone Circuit Court records indicate she got $27,629.
Kennedy, one of 440 people who shared a $200 million settlement from fen-phen maker American Home Products, said she should have received more money.
“I guess I’m naive in a way,” said Kennedy, 59, who now lives in Centerville. “I always believed when you retained a lawyer, they are going to do what is right by you. I just assumed everything was OK.”
She is suing Mills and fellow lawyers Shirley Cunningham Jr., William Gallion and Stan Chesley in Boone Circuit Court.
Kennedy’s new lawyer, Angela Ford, claims in court documents that Kennedy should have received $67,428.03 more than what the lawyers gave her.
“I was shocked to hear what my lawyer claims I should have got,” Kennedy said. “I went around with my mouth wide open for days. I couldn’t sleep. That’s all I thought about.”
She said she did not initially question Mills’ character because her great-grandfather was Roscoe Vanover Sr., a legendary judge from Pike and Letcher counties in eastern Kentucky.
“I grew up holding lawyers in great esteem,” Kennedy said. “My great-grandfather must be rolling over in his gave with the antics that went on here.”
She compared the allegations that Mills and other lawyers in the fen-phen case took millions of dollars more from their clients’ settlement than they were entitled to a script to a legal thriller, one she said should be titled “Lawyers Gone Wild.”
“If I had gotten the full amount of money I was supposed to, my living circumstances would have improved,” Kennedy said. “This all happened when I was down on my luck.”
She said she moved in with her sister in Alabama in 2002 to save money after losing her job in Greater Cincinnati and having two back surgeries.
Kennedy wouldn’t discuss what health problem the drug caused other than to say she is under a doctor’s care.
“I really feel like I have been cheated – big time,” she said.
INDEPENDENCE – Workers in lawyer William Gallion’s office told Malanei Marro not to utter the word “fen-phen” over the telephone or talk about the settlement she received for a heart murmur the diet drug caused.
“It made you feel like your phone was tapped,” the 43-year-old Independence woman said. “I was told not to talk about the dollar amount of my settlement, either.”
Marro confirmed that she received two settlement checks totaling $26,326.49. The first came in summer 2001 followed by a second check the next spring.
“The sad part about it was it only covered my medical bills and maybe the outstanding balance on one credit card,” Marro said. She added that she now pays higher premiums for both health and life insurance because of the heart condition caused by fen-phen.
Her former lawyer, Gallion, and others are accused of defrauding Marro and 439 other fen-phen victims out of more than half a $200 million settlement reached with American Home Products, the manufacturer of fen-phen.
Many fen-phen victims are suing Gallion and fellow lawyers Melbourne Mills Jr., Shirley Cunningham Jr. and Stan Chesley, but not Marro. No one contacted her about joining the civil suit in Boone Circuit Court, and she didn’t know of the fraud allegations until contacted in October by a reporter.
“I think my heart murmur is coming back,” Marro said after hearing the news. She was diagnosed with heart valve damage after taking the drug, but added she hasn’t had any ongoing complications.
Court records filed on behalf of the fen-phen victims suing their former lawyers claim Marro should have received $95.057.03. That is $68.730.54 more than court records show she got.
“It is absolutely horrible they did this to so many people,” Marro said. “The fen-phen was bad enough. Then, you think someone is trying to help you and they screw you as well. That is just not right. It is not right at all.”
She said things “got weird” when it was time to disburse the settlement money.
Marro said she was told to drive to Gallion’s Lexington office to pick up the check.
Because she doesn’t drive on interstates, her husband had to take her. But then he wasn’t allowed into the lawyer’s office.
“They told me I couldn’t even tell my husband how much money I got,” she said. “How do you do that? I have a joint checking account. I’m married. Hello.”
Instead of feeling like a victor in a civil suit, Marro said she was made to feel like a victim – for the second time.
Marro said Gallion’s office employees told her she could be fined $5,000 or thrown in jail if she talked about the settlement. She said she signed a series of documents, including papers she believed were confidentiality agreements, but she now has no copies of the paperwork to confirm that.
“I couldn’t even tell my own mother,” she said. “It was kind of ridiculous. It was like they put the fear of God if you opened your month about anything.”
LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. – W.L. Carter said he was “shocked” when he went to his lawyer’s office in 2001 to collect his settlement for the heart damage he sustained after taking the diet drug fen-phen.
He recalled a desk and two metal folding chairs isolated in the middle of the gutted office suite in a downtown Lexington tower.
“The place looked like it had been looted,” the 54-year-old Lawrenceburg, Ky., resident said. “You could still see where carpet had been ripped off the floor.”
Then, he got his settlement check.
Although Carter will only say the check was much smaller than he expected, Boone Circuit Court records show he ultimately received $27,629 from the lawsuit.
Throughout the case, other things seemed unprofessional.
Before suing the drug maker, Carter had to sign a series of documents. He decided to drop off the documents at Melbourne Mills Jr.’s long-time office in Versailles, just west of Lexington. Mills answered the door wearing a T-shirt, flip flops and boxer briefs.
“That is the one and only time I met Melbourne Mills,” Carter said, “but that image is burned in my mind forever. He was ultra-casual that morning.”
Carter is now suing his former lawyer, Mills, claiming he and others kept the bulk of the $200 million settlement for themselves. The other defendants in the Boone Circuit Court case are lawyers Shirley Cunningham Jr., William Gallion and Stan Chesley.
Carter’s new lawyer, Angela Ford, alleges in court filings that Carter should have received $67,428.03 more, but he didn’t because the lawyers allegedly siphoned off millions of dollars more than they should have.
When Carter complained about the settlement, a woman in Mills’ office threatened to retaliate if he ever told anyone how much he received.
“You will be fined $100,000, you will go to jail and you will be sued,” Carter recalled the woman saying.
When Carter asked if he could tell his wife, the woman asked, “Can you trust her?” Carter said.
The question infuriated Carter. “If she had been a man,” he said, “I would have hit her in the mouth.”
Carter said he left the law office not mad at his attorney, but the maker of fen-phen who left him with heart valve damage. His lawyers had convinced him the drug maker insisted on the secrecy as part of the settlement.
He was so upset on his drive home that he pulled his car over and vomited alongside the road.
“It made me physically sick,” Carter said. He now walks nine miles a day, checks his blood pressure and heart rate several times a week and eats heart-friendly foods in hopes of mitigating any long-term damage done to his heart.
Timeline of Events
Mid-1997: Studies show fen-phen may damage heart valves. USDA urges patients to stop using it.

October 1997 – July 1998: Melbourne Mills Jr., William Gallion and Shirley Cunningham Jr. file separate lawsuits on behalf of hundreds of patients in Kentucky against American Home Products, the maker of fen-phen.

July 1999: Cincinnati lawyer Stan Chesley is negotiating a settlement with the drug maker to resolve national claims.

April 2000: National settlement approved.

May-November 2001: Circuit Judge Joseph Bamberger approves settlement of Kentucky case for $200 million. Amount not revealed in court records or to plaintiffs. Lawyers receive between $54 million and $10 million each.

February, 2002: Kentucky Bar Association investigates settlement.

April 2002: Lawyers give an additional $25 million to plaintiffs, who are asked to give permission to donate a small amount of remaining settlement to charity.

July 2002: Charitable foundation is created with $20 million. Gallion, Cunningham are paid trustees; Mills is later named a trustee.

December 2003: Judge Bamberger ends supervision of charity, retires and becomes senior judge.

July 2004: Judge Bamberger becomes a charity trustee and is paid $50,000 plus expenses.

December 2004: Angela Ford sues lawyers on behalf of their former clients.

February 2006: Bamberger resigns judgeship. He returns charity money.

March 2006: Gallion, Cunningham and Mills found to have breached their fiduciary duties.

August 2006: Kentucky Supreme Court temporarily suspends law licenses of Gallion, Cunningham and Mills.

June 14, 2007: Gallion, Cunningham and Mills indicted on federal fraud charges.

Jan. 7, 2008: Criminal trial set for Gallion, Cunningham and Mills.

Read a more extensive timeline
Online Documents
Settlement agreement - The May 1, 2001, settlement agreement between fen-phen’s manufacture, and the lawyers representing the Kentucky plaintiffs.

Bamberger ordersFive orders issued by Judge Joseph Bamberger while he presided over the original fen-phen case. The orders approve the settlement, approve attorney fees, authorize creation of the charity, appoint the charity’s directors and end court oversight of the charity.

Judicial Conduct Commission - Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission’s decision on Feb. 24, 2006, accepting Bamberger’s resignation and reprimanding him for his conduct.

Judgment - Judge William Wehr’s finding on March 8, 2006, that Gallion, Cunningham and Mills “breached their fiduciary duty” to their clients in the fen-phen case.

Indictment - The June 14, 2007 federal indictment of Gallion, Cunningham and Mills on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Bertelsman order - Order from U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman on Aug. 10, 2007, revoking bond for Gallion, Cunningham and Mills.

Comments are closed.