On Wednesday, the family of Susan Bulger, a 39-year-old who took Neurontin before hanging herself in 2004, dropped a suit against Pfizer after one full day of trial in Boston federal district court. Lanier, who had told us Bulger's case was "near-impossible," e-mailed to say that, after the first day of trial, an anonymous "friend of the family" heard how much money the plaintiffs planned to ask the jury for, and said that if Lanier spared Bulger's 10-year-old daughter the ordeal of the trial, the friend would donate a substantial percentage of that amount to a trust established for the girl's care and education.
"We informed the court of the benefactor, Pfizer agreed not to seek costs, and the court dismissed the case," Lanier wrote, adding: "Not bad, eh?"
Pfizer general counsel Amy Schulman sent us this statement through the company's public relations department: "Today, the plaintiff in the first Neurontin personal injury trial dismissed his case with prejudice after only one day of trial. Pfizer has not paid anything in exchange for plaintiff's dismissal and continues to believe that there is no scientifically reliable evidence that Neurontin causes suicidal behavior."
Though the trial didn't last long, it whetted our appetite for round two. In our preview, we wondered who would take the reins as lead counsel for Pfizer. Would it be William Ohlemeyer -- a Boies, Schiller & Flexner partner who is the former associate general counsel for Altria Group -- or Mark Cheffo of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom? Pfizer wouldn't tell us in advance, but on Monday, Ohlemeyer made the opening argument. Ohlemeyer told us on Wednesday that he was going to share trial duties with Charles Goodell and Rick Barnes of Goodell, DeVries, Leech & Dann.
Ohlemeyer and Lanier apparently put on a good show during their openings. According to the trial transcript, after the lawyers finished, Boston federal district court Judge Patti Saris told them, "You both [gave] -- I'm telling my law clerks -- two of the best opening arguments I have heard in a very long time."
There was also one odd moment in the abbreviated proceeding. Lanier's first witness was David Franklin, a doctor who used to sell Neurontin for Pfizer. He told the courtroom that the day before trial, a private investigator hired by Pfizer came to his house, blocked the driveway, and would not leave until his wife called the police. After Franklin's testimony -- during which he said that the private investigator had yelled at his wife, and frightened his young daughter -- Judge Saris told Ohlemeyer that "no one should be going after Dr. David Franklin anymore."
Ohlemeyer told us that the incident was unfortunate, but that there was nothing improper about an investigator meeting with a fact witness in a lawsuit.
This article first appeared on The Am Law Daily blog.