Judge dismisses Chesley lawsuit to block $42 million civil judgment

The Supreme Court in June ruled that a Hamilton County judge had no authority to block the enforcement of an out-of-state fen-phen judgment.

The Hamilton County judge who erroneously shielded disbarred Indian Hill lawyer Stan Chesley from a $42 million civil judgment has dismissed Chesley’s lawsuit to stop the collection effort.

The order was signed Aug. 18 by Common Pleas Judge Robert Ruehlman. He gave no reason for the dismissal. Chesley’s problems are rooted in the fen-phen weight loss scandal of the 1990s. Joining a lawsuit that was already in progress, Chesley helped negotiate a $209 million settlement on behalf of hundreds of fen-phen users who claimed medical harm by the pills. He received a $20.5 million fee for his work.

But a Boone County court ruled that the victims’ attorneys pocketed too much money and ordered them to pay $42 million, including Chesley on his own. In early 2015, Chesley filed suit in Cincinnati, asking Ruehlman to block collection. Ruehlman obliged.

Attorneys for the fen-phen victims appealed to the Supreme Court. In June, the high court ruled that Ruehlman had “no legal authority” to block enforcement of the out-of-state judgment. It said, “Chesley has turned to the courts of Ohio to thwart collection of the judgment and relitigate the case. And Chesley has found a receptive audience in … Ruehlman.”

Ruehlman removed himself from the case in a separate Aug. 18 order. He gave no reason other than that “this is in the interest of justice.”

Chesley, the former “king of torts” known for his slash-and-burn class-action lawsuits against companies, was disbarred in Kentucky in 2013. He retired rather than face disbarment in Ohio.

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