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Prempro and Punitives

MassTortDefense Blog posted about the U.S. Supreme Court decision to not hear a punitive damages case, Wyeth v. Scroggin.

In the first trial, bifurcated on liability and damages, the jury held the drug company responsible to the tune of $2.7 million in compensatory damages, and then $19.4 million in punitive damages. Appeals predictably followed, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit overturned the punitive damages award based on some evidence that should not have been permitted. That court then ordered a new trial on punitive damages, only.

The issue that some wanted the Supreme Court to decide was whether a new trial on punitive damages alone was okay, or whether the entire trial had to be redone.

On the one hand, it seems a little difficult for a jury to get the full scope of a defendant’s malfeasance without redoing liability, as well. But, the lawyers trying these hormone therapy cases are a resourceful bunch, and I’m sure they can do it. It’s just sad that a new jury won’t have the benefit of the same amount of time detailing all the drug company’s missteps.

On the other hand, the plaintiff has already proven her case, at least on the fundamental level of liability and causation and (non-punitive) damages. To make her retry the whole thing would be cruel and would certainly lack the judicial economy. Furthermore, to take that away when the initial non-punitive process was without judicial error would be inappropriate even according to the rules of the playground.

One side note–the author of the blog stated that:

The case involves a woman who allegedly developed cancer after taking hormone therapy drugs. (The FDA continues to approve the drugs as safe and effective.)

Actually, the case involves a woman who has proven that she developed cancer because of hormone therapy drugs. And, to say that the FDA continues to approve the drugs as safe and effective is a gross oversimplification. Sure, they are safe when used properly. Doctors didn’t have the right warnings at the time, and now they are used more frequently with the “lowest effective dose.” After all the studies that have been done, you can’t deny that hormone therapy drugs cause breast cancer. Well, you could, but if you are, you are probably a drug company executive…