Our firm was able to settle a Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) lawsuit last month after three weeks of trial in Philadelphia, Pa. The jury had awarded $72.6 million to three Plaintiffs in the case. The link between hormone replacement drugs and breast cancer was at issue in the trial. The jury, after determining that the HRT drugs, Premarin, Provera and Prempro, caused the Plaintiffs’ breast cancer, set the value of actual compensatory damages in the case against Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.
The verdict was delivered in the first phase of a reverse-bifurcated trial. This is a procedure in which the jury first determines causation and compensatory damages before determining liability. The liability phase of the trial, which was to determine if punitive damages are due, was set to proceed two days later. This approach for a trial makes the job of the Plaintiffs’ lawyers much harder. But Wyeth agreed to settle the case before we could get that phase started.
Hormone Replacement Therapy, including drugs such as Premarin, Prempro and Provera, was prescribed to treat the symptoms of menopause until 2002, when a comprehensive women’s health study was halted as a result of increasing incidents of breast cancer. The drugs also were promoted for off-label uses, including prevention of cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
By marketing these drugs for uses that were never approved by the FDA and downplaying the risk of breast cancer, Wyeth put the lives of thousands of women at serious risk. The drug manufacturer hid the risks from thousands of women as well as doctors across the United States. In the Philadelphia trial, the jurors didn’t get to see all of the very bad liability documents.
In the case of Elfont v. Wyeth, the jury assessed Plaintiff Susan Elfont’s damages at $20 million. Ms. Elfont had taken HRT drugs for more than two years and developed breast cancer. In the case of Mulderig v. Wyeth, the jury assessed Judy Mulderig’s damages at $24.75 million. Ms. Mulderig took HRT drugs for more than 11 years before being diagnosed with breast cancer. In the case of Kalenkoski v. Wyeth, the jury assessed Bernadette Kalenkoski’s damages at $27.85 million. Ms. Kalenkoski took HRT medication for just under five years before being diagnosed with breast cancer.
The jurors weren’t allowed in the first phase to see a great number of documents that would have shown how truly bad Wyeth had been. These would have been admitted into evidence in the liability phase. The amount of each settlement is confidential. I can say, however, that our clients can now get on with their lives and they were completely satisfied with their settlements. These brave women should be commended for having the courage to take on a powerful drug company. Their commitment should help thousands of other HRT victims get justice in their claims.
Ted Meadows, from our firm, along with Tobi Millrood and Matt Leckman, lawyers with Pogust Braslow & Millrood, tried this case for the three Plaintiffs. Russ Abney, Navan Ward, Danielle Mason and Matt Teague, all lawyers in our firm’s Mass Tort Section, helped get this case ready for trial and assisted during the actual trial. They all did a tremendous job.
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