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U.S. Supreme Court Declined to Review Punitive Damages Against Premarin/Prempro Manufacturer

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The U.S. Supreme Court on June 20, 2011, declined to review a state court decision in Wyeth LLC, et al., v. Jeraldine Scofield, et al., that affirmed a $35 million punitive damages award in a Prempro/Premarin injury case.

The issues before the Supreme Court were: "(1) Whether, when a verdict has been tainted by a jury's passion or prejudice, due process requires a trial court to grant a new trial instead of remittitur; and (2) whether, and in what circumstances, a trial court violates due process when it awards a substantial amount in compensatory damages but nevertheless proceeds to award punitive damages in an amount exceeding the one-to-one ratio indicated in State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408 (2003), and Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, 554 U.S. 471 (2008)."

The drug case involved postmenopausal women who used Wyeth's estrogen-based Premarin or Prempro hormone replacement therapy for long periods to relieve hot flashes and vaginal atrophy and to prevent osteoporosis. The plaintiffs had each been diagnosed with breast cancer and had sued Wyeth, alleging that the company had aced with malice in failing to test the HRT products and failing to warn patients or doctors about breast cancer risks. One of the plaintiffs died during the trial and was replaced by her husband as administrator of her estate.

The plaintiffs' cases were consolidated for trial in 2007. The jury returned verdicts awarding the plaintiffs compensatory and punitive damages, and found Wyeth acted with malice or fraud.

After Dr. Robert Wilson, a New York gynecologist, wrote that menopause caused women to lose their youthful appearance and sexuality in Feminine Forever, published in 1966, women started to use HRT  before menopause, and then for the rest of their lives. The book became a best seller, leading to Premarin becoming the fifth most frequently prescribed drug in the United States.

A study between 1993-1998 by Women's Health Initiative concluded that long-term use of HRT added to serious adverse health events. The majority of hormone therapy litigation alleged the development of breast cancer, and hormone therapy was also associated with heart attacks, blood clots and cardiovascular disease.

Contact Shapiro & Appleton& Duffan, P.C. if you or a loved one has suffered injuries from dangerous drugs. The firm holds drug manufacturers accountable for drugs' adverse effects.

LC

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