Reno Jury Awards $99 Million In Wyeth Drug Case

Jurors awarded $99 million in punitive damages Monday to three Nevada women who claimed hormone replacement drugs distributed by pharmaceutical giant Wyeth caused their breast cancer.

A Wyeth attorney said the award would be appealed.

The Washoe County District Court jury initially issued a $134.5 million judgment against Wyeth last week, but Judge Robert Perry slashed that to $35 million after it became clear some of the jurors were under the mistaken belief that award was to include punitive damages intended to punish the company.

As one of the plaintiffs left the courthouse after the ruling on Monday she was "ecstatic" that the initial judgment was virtually reinstated.

"We prevailed, that was the important thing," said Arlene Rowatt, 67, of Incline Village, who was awarded $31 million in punitive damages Monday in addition to the $12 million she was awarded in compensatory damages last week.

"We got our message out that there are a lot of women out there who are being injured by this type of behavior," she said.

After lawyers for both sides gave closing arguments again on Monday, the judge instructed the five-man, two-women jury to move to the punitive stage of the trial to consider whether the company's actions were so "reprehensible" that additional damages were warranted to punish it and discourage such behavior in the future.

"This verdict is an extreme aberration," said Heidi Hubbard, a partner in the law firm representing Wyeth.

"It is inconsistent with every other hormone therapy case to be tried to date and it is inconsistent with the evidence."

The judgment signed by Washoe County District Court Judge Robert Perry remains the largest award to date against the Madison, N.J.-based company, which faces about 5,300 similar lawsuits across
the country in state and federal courts.

All involve the drugs Premarin, an estrogen replacement, and Prempro, a combination of estrogen and progestin.

The drugs are prescribed to women to ease symptoms of menopause.

The jurors returned at 1 p.m. Monday, two hours after they began deliberations following an impassioned plea by one of the plaintiffs' lawyers to return a large enough judgment to "get the attention and hold responsible" a company with a net worth of $14.6 billion.

The new judgment awards $33 million to Jeraldine Scofield, 74, Fallon, who was awarded $10.5 million in compensatory damages, and $35 million to Pamela Forrester, 65, of Yerington, who earlier was awarded $12.5 million.

"What the jury has told these three courageous women is their lives and their suffering have value," said Zoe Littlepage, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

Littlepage welcomed the appeal.

"This was a very well tried case. Judge Perry did an outstanding job of making sure he was following the law at every turn," she said. "I feel strongly that these women are entitled to what the jury has given them."


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