In sending jurors home Monday, Superior Court Judge Marina Corodemus said she would hear the case without a jury starting Oct. 12 if a settlement is not reached before then, plaintiffs' attorney Steven Sheller said. The jury had been hearing testimony intermittently since Aug. 11.
Sheller said he thought the case would be settled. Officials with American Home Products, the drug company, declined to comment.
The case pits the Madison-based company against about 94,000 New Jersey residents who used the diet pill combination, which was taken off the market two years ago after being linked to serious heart and lung damage in users. American Home Products sold the "fen" half of the combination under the brand name Pondimin, and made Pondimin's chemical cousin Redux.
The plaintiffs did not develop heart or lung damage, but they want American Home Products to cover the cost of future medical checkups in case problems develop down the road.
Fenfluramine had been sold since the 1970s but became widely used in the 1990s when doctors prescribed it for weight loss in combination with another drug, phentermine. The combination became known as fen-phen. When taken alone, phentermine never was associated with health problems and it remains on the market.
More than 4,100 lawsuits have been filed in state and federal courts against American Home Products over fenfluramine.
The company has proposed a national settlement in which it would pay $1.2 billion for future medical examinations for healthy users of the drug, and an additional $2.8 billion to settle individual suits from people who claim the drug has harmed them.
Plaintiffs' attorneys claim the company hid information from doctors, patients and regulators about possible links to heart valve disease and an often fatal lung condition called primary pulmonary hypertension.
The company denies hiding information, and says it acted properly in marketing the drugs.