Drug maker GlaxoSmithKline sues La. Attorney General Buddy Caldwell over attorney fees
BATON ROUGE, La. — Drug maker GlaxoSmithKline has filed suit against Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, alleging that private attorneys hired by Caldwell to prosecute the state's lawsuit against the company have a "personal financial interest" in the suit's outcome.
The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/N3dWEp ) GlaxoSmithKline claims the fee agreement Caldwell has with the attorneys violates the state Constitution and the company's constitutional rights. The firm wants a judge to bar Caldwell from prosecuting the state's suit through private attorneys.
"GlaxoSmithKline has a legal right to face law-enforcement decisions that are not structurally tainted by substantial financial incentives for the prosecutors to seek and exact substantial penalties," the company contends in its lawsuit filed in state court in Baton Rouge.
GlaxoSmithKline issued a statement of its own which said, "GSK believes there is an important issue — the need for a neutral prosecutor — that the Louisiana courts should resolve promptly."
The state sued GSK in February 2011, alleging the firm misrepresented the safety and efficacy of its prescription diabetes drug Avandia, causing Louisiana physicians to submit more than 304,000 "false claims" for Avandia for Louisiana Medicaid recipients.
Medicaid is the state-federal health insurance program for the poor.
GSK says Caldwell is seeking more than $10 billion in civil penalties from the company, along with actual damages, attorneys' fees and other expenses.
Under the fee agreement with Caldwell, the private attorneys he retained can be compensated for their services only in the event the state recovers on its claims against GSK, the company says in its suit.
"It is antithetical to our system of justice for a criminal or civil prosecutor to have a personal stake in a public prosecution that might affect the proper exercise of the prosecutor's official duty to seek justice and to further the public interest," GSK's suit states.
GSK contends Caldwell's fee agreement with New Orleans lawyer Allan Kanner on behalf of the law firm of Kanner and Whiteley required legislative approval.
Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com