Wyeth Jury Awards $99 Million Punitive Damages
MADISON, N.J., Oct. 15 -- Wyeth confirmed today that it will appeal the verdict in the Scofield, Rowatt and Forrester v. Wyeth cases in the Second Judicial District Court in Reno, Nevada, beginning with post-trial motions to The Honorable Robert H. Perry, who presided over the trial.
"This flawed verdict is the result of a trial riddled with errors," says Lawrence V. Stein, Wyeth's Senior Vice President and General Counsel. "The events of last week and the confusion surrounding the jury's deliberations only confirm our view that this verdict will not survive on appeal."
On Friday, substantial irregularities in the jury's deliberations came to light. Judge Perry informed the parties that he had reason to believe that some jurors thought that they had awarded punitive damages as part of the $134 million, ostensibly compensatory, verdict for the three plaintiffs on Wednesday. Wyeth's motion for a mistrial due to the confusion was denied.
In response to an interrogatory from the court, the jury subsequently confirmed that its original verdict included punitive as well as compensatory damages. Over Wyeth's objection and after denying Wyeth's renewed motion for a mistrial, the judge then instructed the jury to re-deliberate, focusing first on compensatory damages only. The jury returned a revised verdict totaling $35 million in compensatory damages on Friday. Plaintiffs were then permitted to argue for punitive damages and jurors were instructed to deliberate yet again today, resulting in a new punitive award totaling $99 million.
The Reno case is the seventh to reach a verdict since trials began in the hormone therapy litigation last year. All of the prior cases have been decided in Wyeth's favor at the trial court level. Three of the other six trials resulted in jury verdicts in favor of Wyeth; one of the plaintiffs' verdicts was overturned and judgment entered in favor of Wyeth; and the plaintiffs' verdicts in the remaining two trials were thrown out and new trials ordered. Three other cases have been dismissed by courts on summary judgment and a dozen other trial-set cases have been voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiffs before trial. In each of the prior cases involving a plaintiff's verdict, the court expressly ruled that there was no legal basis for an award of punitive damages.
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