Feeding frenzy

by The West Virginia Record |
Sep. 25, 2009, 7:36am

Schadenfreude is a wonderful word that refers to the pleasure we take in other people's distress. It's a guilty pleasure, but hard to resist.

And sometimes it can be justified -– such as when an overbearing and obnoxious person finally gets his comeuppance. It might be unseemly to rejoice publicly with high fives and cartwheels, but a dignified, quiet celebration is ok.

So, pop open a bottle of the bubbly and join us in a toast to the dissolution of Hill, Toriseva and Williams!

Wheeling plaintiff's lawyers Barry Hill, Teresa Toriseva, and Mary Williams know a thing or two about schadenfreude. For years, they seemed to delight in the misery of Merck –- misery they inflicted with 563 lawsuits on behalf of clients allegedly injured by Vioxx, the company's prescription pain medicine.

Toriseva became the resident Vioxx authority, swimming in "Mercky" waters and participating in national seminars to publicize her firm's expertise.

Eventually, the firm's 563 cases were consolidated with 26,000 nationwide and Merck decided to exit the shark infested legal waters with a $4.85 billion settlement. That's roughly $80,000 per plaintiff, with up to 32 percent of each payment going to the attorneys -- an immense sum for Hill, Toriseva and Williams and others to split up.

But something went wrong in the process and the partners had a falling out. Hill and Williams went after Toriseva and ousted her from the firm, renaming it Hill, Williams. Toriseva then filed suit against the duo in Ohio Circuit Court, seeking her share of the fees from the Vioxx settlement.

An image of sharks feeding on each other comes to mind.

Are we experiencing schadenfreude? Maybe so. In fact, we're wondering if their fight will trigger a destructive feeding frenzy involving other plaintiff's attorneys.

Fewer sharks prowling the waters of the American economy, searching for productive American companies to attack is not a bad thing.

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