Osgoode students assist claimants in Zyprexa class action settlement

A group of about 20 students in Osgoode Hall Law School’s Community & Legal Aid Services Program (CLASP) are involved in a unique community outreach project to assist potential claimants in the Zyprexa Canadian class action settlement.

The students are meeting with potential claimants, many of whom are low-income people with mental health issues, to assess whether they are eligible to make claims for settlement payments, and to help them do so if they are.

“I am impressed with our students,” says Marian MacGregor, director of CLASP, a community service offered by Osgoode students who, working under the supervision of lawyers and a community outreach counsellor, provide clients with free legal advice and representation before certain courts and tribunals. “This is all about access to justice and how Osgoode students are helping people who cannot necessarily help themselves to receive what they’re legally entitled to.”

A settlement agreement in the Canadian Zyprexa class actions was approved by courts in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec in June. The class actions were brought on behalf of Canadian patients who took the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa, which is used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, before June 6, 2007, and then developed diabetes or related disorders. Drug manufacturer Eli Lilly, while not admitting liability, has agreed to pay more than $17.5 million to settle the claims of all eligible class members, who have until Oct. 28, 2010 to submit claims for payment.

MacGregor said the law students became involved in the Zyprexa matter after receiving a request for help from Lana Frado, executive director of Sound Times Support Services, a downtown Toronto service funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health & Long Term Care that provides assistance to people with mental health problems. “Lana really wanted to get legal assistance for her clients who have used Zyprexa and clients of other Toronto clinics. She turned to CLASP for help and, of course, we said ‘yes,’” MacGregor says.

The upshot was that CLASP and Sound Times jointly organized a session for potential claimants on Sept. 23 at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto where Osgoode students assisted with assessing each case. “The students were great and there were about 30 potential claimants with service providers coming to learn about how to fill out the form,” MacGregor said. “I really felt like we hit the most vulnerable.”

A second session for another group of potential claimants is planned for Oct. 6 at the Queen Street site of the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health, said MacGregor, noting that Osgoode students will continue to assist potential claimants to submit payment claims up until the Oct. 28 deadline.