Tuesday, November 24, 2009
In the hormone replacement therapy (HRT) litigation, plaintiffs won substantial verdicts in two trials in state court in Pennsylvania. In the trial that concluded yesterday, the jury imposed punitive damages of $28 million on top of the $6.3 million in compensatory damages it had already awarded to plaintiff Donna Kendall. In the other case, the court yesterday unsealed a punitive damages verdict of $75 million for plaintiff Connie Barton, who had been awarded $3.7 million in compensatory damages. When the Barton punitive verdict was reached in late October, the court took the unusual step of sealing the amount of punitives (see here and here) while the Kendall trial was pending. Here's an excerpt from today's Philadelphia Inquirer article:
Pfizer Inc. has been hit with more than $100 million in two punitive-damage awards - one decided and the other unsealed yesterday - from Philadelphia juries.
Both cases involve Prempro, a hormone-replacement drug made by Wyeth, which recently was acquired by Pfizer. Plaintiffs said the drug was linked to their breast cancer.
The total includes $28 million awarded yesterday to Donna Kendall of Decatur, Ill.
In the second case, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Sandra Moss yesterday unsealed a verdict reached earlier this year that awarded $75 million in punitive damages to another Illinois resident, Connie Barton, over her Prempro-linked breast cancer. ...
About 1,500 of 10,000 similar cases are pending in Philadelphia, a common jurisdiction for large liability cases, attorneys say.
With the momentum in plaintiffs' favor and 10,000 cases remaining, one has to wonder whether Pfizer will seek some sort of global settlement. We can't help comparing Pfizer's position to the position of Merck before it settled the Vioxx litigation. After a similar but slightly higher number of trials, Merck abandoned its try-every-case-individually strategy and negotiated a mass aggregate settlement. Merck, however, settled when it had a favorable trial record; so far the defendants have not prevailed in most of the HRT trials.