The editorial below discusses the $1 billion dollar verdict against drug companies Teva and Baxter. 

Said one lawyer requesting anonymity, “The defense counsel will get absolutely railroaded by Judge Walsh, and when I say railroaded, I mean prison raped.”

Those of us out here in the cheap seats were under the impression hepatitis was spread through previously used needles and Desai and/or his managers ordered employees to re-use needles as a way of saving money. The jury wasn’t allowed to hear such allegations during the first trial. Walsh said the defendants were not allowed to tell the jury Desai’s staffers had ignored the warnings on the Propofol vials. They were also denied the chance to argue the warnings on the vials had been approved by the FDA. They were not allowed to argue there was serious misconduct on the part of doctors or nurses. Nor were they allowed to show there were other ways hepatitis could have been spread. (Emphasis added.)

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As described in legal documents filed with the Supreme Court, Desai’s clinics routinely ignored the most basic protocols for sanitizing instruments. They used “filthy endoscopes and accessories without proper disinfection” and they systematically cross contaminated all of these instruments by dropping them into a “primordial soup filled with human blood, feces, and tissue.”

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However, because Desai and his insurance carrier don’t have deep enough pockets, defendants are going after the two drug companies, and they are being aided by hometown rulings that have so far gutted any chance the out-of-town guys have to defend themselves.

Source: Jurors don’t know the whole truth : Knappster :: Las Vegas CityLife

I don’t make a lot of friends among the plaintiffs’ bar this way, but I have to agree that this is just a case of a crafty lawyer looking for a deep pocket.  If the allegations against Desai are true, then NO WARNING on the drug bottles would have prevented this tragedy.  Or, put another way, the warning or lack thereof did not proximately cause these injuries.

It’s hard for me to defend my brothers and sisters in the bar when they argue that a jury shouldn’t learn the pertinent facts about the cause of an injury.  Bad lawyering makes bad law, and there could be some serious repercussions as a result of this case – especially now that Republicans (who hate plaintiffs) run the House.  It’s not hard to imagine an enterprising Congressman using this case as an excuse to pass a bill that will “prison rape” injured citizens in the future.

This is not a good year for Johnson & Johnson.

Johnson & Johnson lost a $257.7 million jury verdict in Louisiana for making misleading claims about the safety of the company’s Risperdal antipsychotic drug.

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The jury found 35,542 violations of the state’s Medical Assistance Programs Integrity Law and imposed a penalty of $7,250 for each. The total $257.7 million verdict is the fifth- largest in the U.S. so far in 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Source: J&J Must Pay Louisiana $257.7 Million Over Risperdal Marketing Practices – Bloomberg

Is $7,250 per violation a lot of money?  Maybe.  But keep in mind that another jury assessed over $9,000 per violation for each MP3 song a consumer illegally downloaded. 

It seems to me that ripping off the government should carry a higher penalty than downloading a song.  Especially since taxpayers don’t get billed for every song you download.

I’ve had occasion to read some of the documents relating to Prempro, and $75 million dollars seems fair.

Nov. 5 (Bloomberg) — Pfizer Inc. must pay about $75 million in punitive damages to an Illinois woman who developed cancer after taking one of the drugmaker’s menopause treatments, people familiar with a sealed verdict in the case said.

A Philadelphia jury ordered Pfizer’s Wyeth unit on Oct. 26 to pay the bad-conduct award, which is about 20 times larger than the $3.7 million in actual damages the panel awarded to Connie Barton over her use of Wyeth’s Prempro menopause drug, according to people with direct knowledge of the verdict.

Source: Pfizer Jury Said to Award $75 Million Prempro Verdict to Woman – Bloomberg.com

I’m not a fan of sealing verdicts, but I understand why the judge did so:

Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) — A Pfizer Inc. unit must pay an undisclosed amount of punitive damages to an Illinois woman who developed breast cancer after taking one of the drugmaker’s menopause treatments, a Philadelphia jury said yesterday.

Jurors deliberated 25 minutes before finding Pfizer’s Wyeth subsidiary was responsible for paying an award to Connie Barton. The specific amount of the award was sealed by the trial judge immediately after it was returned.

Source: Pfizer Unit’s Prempro Punitive Damages Verdict Remains Secret – Bloomberg.com

There’s another Prempro trial in the same courthouse, and the judge is worried that the jurors in that case might be swayed.  I don’t think they’d be swayed as to liability, but if they hear another dollar figure for punitive damages, it will anchor their deliberations and they’ll use that as a baseline.