The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected Pfizer Inc.’s appeal of a ruling that ordered a retrial on the amount of punitive damages that should be awarded to a woman who developed breast cancer after taking the company’s hormone replacement therapy drugs. Pfizer argued that a retrial limited to just punitive damages had violated its constitutional right to a jury trial and that the trial judge in the case had improperly admitted the testimony of a scientific expert.
An Arkansas jury in 2008 ruled for Donna Scroggin in her lawsuit against two Pfizer units – Wyeth and Upjohn. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000, after taking hormone replacement therapy drugs for 11 years. The jury awarded her compensatory damages of $2.7 million and punitive damages of $19.4 million against Wyeth, and $7.8 million against Upjohn. A federal appeals court upheld the jury’s award of compensatory damages, but said a federal judge had correctly set aside the punitive damages award against Upjohn as a matter of law. The appeals court ordered a new trial on punitive damages involving Wyeth.
In 2002, the National Institutes of Health published the results of its study that linked the use of hormone replacement therapy to breast cancer. In its appeal, Pfizer opposed a partial retrial limited to punitive damages, claiming it would lead to confusion and uncertainty for the jury and would be a denial of its right to a fair trial. The pharmaceutical company, and a number of groups supporting it, said the appeals court should have ordered an entirely new trial. But, the Supreme Court rejected the company’s appeal without any comment.
Source: Insurance Journal
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