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Pfizer Settles Lawsuit Filed By South Texas Woman

Mar 7, 2003 | AP

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed against it by an Alice woman who claimed that she suffered liver disease caused a drug the company makes.

The company hired Rep. Aaron Pena, D-Edinburg, to represent it, but some have criticized Pena for taking the job. They say Pfizer hired Pena as a way to postpone the case until after the legislative session.

A state provision allows a lawyer-legislator to delay a trial as long as they file a legislative continuance 10 days before the start of the trial.

Pfizer was sued by Maria Garcia of Alice. In her lawsuit, she alleges that she has end-stage liver disease caused by Rezulin, which the company manufactures.

Garcia's trial was scheduled for Feb. 13. Pena was hired by Pfizer on Feb. 2, and he filed a legislative continuance on Feb. 3.

The case was settled out of court last week, said Garcia's attorney, John Thomas of Houston.

"We're very pleased with the results and the Garcia family is happy to have this matter behind them," Thomas said in today's editions of The (McAllen) Monitor. "They can start focusing on hopefully getting Mrs. Garcia a new liver."

The terms of the settlement are confidential, Thomas said.

Thomas had pushed for the trial, arguing that Pena was hired by Pfizer to delay the trial.

Pena said he sought the blessing of all plaintiff attorneys before agreeing to take the case for Pfizer, but Thomas said Pena never contacted him.

Last month, state Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, filed a bill that would require attorney-legislators to file for legislative continuances at least 30 days for the start of a trial. Hinojosa said it would prevent either party from ambush.

Thomas said the bill is a good idea. "Ten days is tough," he said. "We were right down to flying in experts to testify and paying for hotel rooms. Thirty days would probably be better."

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