October 12, 2007
Prempro Jury Confused; Damages Reduced
If Wednesday's verdicts in the Nevada Prempro case seemed implausibly large for compensatory damages, here's the explanation: the jury was confused about the difference between compensation and punitive damages. Although for now, this means a substantial reduction in the verdicts, under the circumstances it cannot be considered good news for Wyeth.
According to this Reno Gazette-Journal article -- Jurors to reconsider Prempro damages -- the judge instructed the jury to reconsider its damages calculations:
Jurors in the Wyeth trial were sent back to the jury room this morning to reconsider the amount of damages the company must pay after they told the judge that they were confused about punitive damages when they ordered the company to pay millions on Wednesday.
The jurors told Judge Robert Perry that they included punitive damages in the total they awarded three women who had sued Wyeth, claiming its hormone replacement drugs caused their breast cancer.
... After learning of the confusion, Perry sent the jury back and said they must first recalculate the past and future damages, and then said he would hold a hearing with witnesses before the panel would decide punitive damages.
Later today, an article by AP writer Sandra Chereb -- Jury Cuts $100M From Award Against Wyeth -- reported that upon reconsideration, the jury reduced the total verdicts from $134.5 million to $35 million:
A jury on Friday slashed $100 million from a judgment against pharmaceutical giant Wyeth after it conceded a previous award was improper because it was intended to punish the company for its hormone replacement drugs. Washoe District Judge Robert Perry instructed the five-man, two-woman jury to reconsider a $134.5 million compensatory award issued Wednesday after questions were raised about whether the judgment included punitive damages. Perry said the matter was brought to his attention by a bailiff, who overheard discussion in the jury room. "If we don't correct it now, we'll be trying this case again," the judge said. After deliberating for about three hours, jurors on Friday awarded $35 million to three Nevada women for past and future medical expenses, as well as physical and emotional pain and suffering. ...
Perry twice denied a motion by Wyeth lawyer Dan Webb to declare a mistrial over the jury's confusion. Webb argued that jurors were predisposed to punish the company before the punitive phase of the trial had begun. The judge said jurors raised questions expressing their confusion during the initial deliberations, but Wyeth lawyers wouldn't allow an explanation. ...
The revised compensatory damage verdicts include $10.5 million for Jeraldine Scofield, $12 million for Arlene Rowatt, and $12.5 million for Pamela Forrester. The jury will return Monday to decide whether to impose punitive damages. Given the jury's premature attempt to punish Wyeth with an extra $100 million or so, there cannot be much doubt about how the punitive damages phase will turn out next week.
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