The popular pharmaceutical company Pfizer chose to settle in a recent civil case involving three Pennsylvania women who developed breast cancer after taking menopause drugs manufactured by the company.
The Philadelphia Enquirer’s Philly.com reports that during the compensatory phase of the trial, the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs, Susan Elfont, Bernadette Kalenkoski and Judy Mulderig. The jury awarded these women a combined total of $72.6 million in damages. The three women involved in this case represent only a few of the thousands who have filed similar suits against Pfizer or one of its subsidiaries. Before punitive damages could be assessed against Pfizer, the drug company settled with the three women for an undisclosed amount.
Civil Trials: Compensatory Versus Punitive Damages
When most people think of court cases, criminal trials often come to mind. In a criminal lawsuit, the jury decides whether an offender is guilty of a certain crime. If the defendant is found guilty, punishments typically include imprisonment, fines or even execution.
On the other hand, if a defendant is found guilty during a civil trial, there is no threat of imprisonment. Instead, the guilty defendant must compensate the plaintiff for any losses their actions may have caused. Furthermore, the defendant can also be found guilty of committing “personal wrongdoings” under the law.
As such, these cases are typically composed of two phases. During the first (compensatory) phase, the jury decides on the amount owed to the plaintiff as reimbursement for any injuries sustained. This amount is meant to cover any medical costs, lost wages, or pain and suffering experienced by the victim. During the punitive phrase of the trial, the same jury decides if the defendant should face further financial punishment, making an example out of their behavior.
Why Pfizer Decided to Settle
Pfizer’s decision to settle came the day before the punitive phase of the civil trial was scheduled to begin. The jurors were set to start hearing testimonies, had the trial continued. The panel would have determined whether the drug company should be held responsible and charged with punitive damages.
If Pfizer was found liable, the courts could have increased the compensatory amount awarded to the plaintiffs. However, if the jury found that the drug company should not be held liable, the compensatory amount could have been reduced.
The uncertainty over the jury’s upcoming verdict during the punitive phase of the trial is what likely led the company to reach an early settlement. Bloomberg’s Businessweek.com learned in a phone interview with Pfizer spokesperson Chris Loder that both parties came to a mutually agreeable resolution. Due to confidentiality agreements, the settled amount cannot be disclosed.
Millions of women took Prempro or similar hormone-therapy drugs to help relieve menopausal symptoms, until a 2002 study demonstrated their ties to cancer. Pfizer is responsible for manufacturing the menopause drugs in question. Out of the 18 cases against their drug Prempro, Pfizer has already lost 10. The drug company has put aside almost $772 million in an effort to resolve the remaining claims.
If you or someone you love was harmed by taking Prempro, contact our office for a free consultation. Because the law limits the time to file a claim for damages, you should act quickly. Our attorneys will listen to your story and help determine if you may be eligible for compensation.