Punitive Damages Award In Big Pharma Case Reduced From $10 Million To $900,000

In Davids v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp., 06 CV 431 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 9, 2013), Judge Spatt resolved post-trial motions  in a case involving the defendant’s alleged failure to warn plaintiff of potential dangers posed by an anti-cancer drug called Zometa.  A jury awarded plaintiff $450,000 in compensatory damages and $10,000,000 in punitive damages because the drug caused her to develop a type of osteonecrosis of the jaw.

Defendant’s first motion sought a new trial based on evidence that the jurors had possibly consulted a dictionary to find the definition of “wanton” while considering punitive damages .  The Court held that defendant’s evidence, affidavits submitted by jury consultants who contacted the jurors after trial, consisted of “speculation . . . and first and second level hearsay.”  Without more, such as an affidavit from one of the jurors, the Court denied the motion.

Defendant’s second motion sought to reduce the punitive damages award.  The parties acknowledged that under the applicable New Jersey statute, punitive damages were capped at five times the compensatory award, or $2.25 million.  The Court then analyzed whether $2.25 million was appropriate under both the New Jersey statute and under a federal due process analysis.  After considering defendant’s conduct—specifically, that defendant “was warned by several doctors of the connection between Zometa and [plaintiff’s jaw condition] and yet decided to not only ignore these warnings, but to even undermine them”—the Court determined that punitive damages were warranted, but in a lower amount based on Second Circuit precedent.  The punitive damages award was reduced from five times compensatory to two times compensatory, or $900,000.

The Court denied plaintiff’s motion for prejudgment interest, citing authority that New Jersey does not permit prejudgment interest on punitive damages.