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BENDECTIN $95 MIL. JUDGMENT AGAINST MERRELL DOW IN D.C. FEDERAL COURT

Executive Summary

BENDECTIN $95 MIL. JUDGMENT AGAINST MERRELL DOW IN D.C. FEDERAL COURT on July 14 allows the company 10 days to file a motion for reversal or a new trial. "We're going to take every step necessary to reverse this verdict and obtain a ruling in our favor," a Merrell Dow spokesperson said. The D.C. jury presided over by Judge June Green awarded the plaintiff $20 mil. in compensatory damages and $75 mil. in punitive damages. The jury answered 10 questions affirmatively regarding Bendectin's relationship to the plaintiff's deformity and the company's responsibility to warn of risks. The jury, for example, decided that Merrell was "negligent in failing to warn adequately physicians, including Plaintiff Sandra Ealy's physician, of the risks which defendant knew or should have known to be associated with the use of Bendectin in 1978." The D.C. verdict is at least the second Bendectin ruling in which a jury attached a punitive damage award. Last January in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, a jury awarded $2 mil. in punitive damages to a child whose mother took Bendectin prior to giving birth. Merrell Dow has since filed two motions with the trial court judge -- one for a judgment notwithstanding the jury verdict and another for a new trial ("The Pink Sheet" Feb. 2, T&G-6). In the D.C. case (Sekou Ealy v. Richarson-Merrell), Merrell Dow was represented by the firm of Collier, Shannon, Rill & Scott. That firm was successful in December 1986 in getting D.C. Judge Thomas Jackson to overturn a smaller jury award in another Bendectin case ("The Pink Sheet" Feb. 2, T&G-6). Merrell Dow says that it has received favorable jury verdicts in 13 of the 17 trials to date. The current case was tried before an all-female jury. The jurors were employed and ranged in age from late 20's to early 60's. "It is incredible that the jury found that Bendectin caused the child's problem and awarded the grossly excessive amounts in damages," Merrell Dow spokesperson William Donaldson said in a press release issued the day of the verdict.
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