Class action

Attorneys David Nix '82, Fred Streck '83 and Dwain Dent '73 get recognition for winning long legal battle for more than 300 families of infants.

by Betsy Friaf
Updated: Monday, July 30, 2012

Fred Streck '83 and Dwain Dent '73 (along with David Nix '82, pictured below) were among six finalists for Trial Lawyer of the Year last summer.

Friends who hang out together at TCU often build lifelong collaborations.

That’s how things have turned out for an award-winning legal team. David Nix ’82 and Fred Streck ’83 were on the Horned Frog track squad together, and now they, along with Dwain Dent ’73, have been honored for winning a federal case on behalf of sick babies.

After graduation from TCU, their law practices took them on divergent career paths that eventually crossed again when they waged a successful seven-year battle to hold a pharmaceutical company accountable for harming premature infants.

And last summer, their efforts were rewarded when their case was among six finalists for Trial Lawyer of the Year, a prestigious national award presented by the Public Justice Foundation. 

On the case along with Nix, Streck and Dent was longtime Fort Worth attorney Art Brender. They helped hundreds of people sue the manufacturer and distributor of E-Ferol, a drug designed to help prevent vision problems in premature infants but never approved by the Food and Drug Administration. 

“Babies were injected anyway, about 1,000 of them,” says Dent.

Last spring a class action settlement was reached that ordered the insurers of the manufacturer and distributor of E-Ferol to pay $110 million to the 369 people who are either surviving recipients of E-Ferol or family members of infants who died.

Nix The Texas team was assigned to locate the hundreds of E-Ferol recipients across the country and then, using 20-year-old hospital records, prove that E-Ferol was a cause of death or injury in each case. 

“This case has basically been my whole career,” says Streck, who practices law with Dent’s firm in Fort Worth. “Since 1985 I’ve worked on this drug. In 2003 the statute of limitations was going to run out; some people didn’t even know they had gotten the drug. Federal Judge Sidney Fitzwater [who graduated from high school in Fort Worth] let us make it a class action suit and said the hospitals had to divulge names.”

Streck was a business major who came to TCU with a track scholarship after winning the Kansas javelin championship. He and Nix crossed paths because Nix ran the 4-by-800 meters. “My record and Fred’s school records are still standing,” says Nix, who credits his pal Streck for helping him choose a career. “I majored in marketing, sort of wandered through premed and education also. But Fred recommended I take the LSAT, and I did well enough to get into Baylor Law School.”

There’s more synchronicity in their lives as well. Says Nix: “My wife and Fred’s are also TCU grads, and they were the first people they each met at TCU — they were roommates during orientation.”

Dent, the eldest of the trio, majored in political science and minored in economics. He says his professors lit a fire under him academically. “If you decided you wanted something bad enough, TCU would show you how to use what you had to get it, use your skills to make it happen.

The people showed me how to devote and commit.”

Dent got to know Streck when he was practicing at a Fort Worth firm where Streck was a clerk. When Dent hung out his own shingle, he took Streck with him.

Nix, meanwhile, practiced in the District attorney’s office in Wichita Falls, his hometown, then came back to the Metroplex to Dent’s previous law firm. Then he moved back to Wichita Falls and served as local counsel on the big case, Klein vs. O’Neal, which was assigned by the federal court to the Wichita Falls division.

“My part was to be to help pick the jury and help try the case,” Nix says.

Nix says the other members of the team deserve the credit. “I attended some hearings. I was just along for the ride. It was a great honor to be included. Those guys have done so many favors for me over the years. Horned Frogs for life.”