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CASE TYPE:Products liability CASE: Sanchez v. Parke-Davis Co., No. 00-6523-F (Nueces Co., Texas, Dist. Ct.). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEYS:Mikal C. Watts of Corpus Christi, Texas’ Watts & Heard; J. Michael Papantonio of Pensacola, Fla.’s Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Echsner & Proctor; T. Christopher Pinedo of Corpus Christi’s Pinedo Law Firm; T. Roe Frazer II of Jackson, Miss.’ Frazer Davidson DEFENSE ATTORNEYS:Sawnie T. McEntire and Tom P. Sartwelle of Houston’s Beirne, Maynard & Parsons; Jorge Rangel of Corpus Christi; Darrell L. Barger of Corpus Christi’s Barger, Hermansen, McKibben & Villarreal; William A. Abernethy of Corpus Christi’s Meredith, Donnell & Abernethy; and David L. Rumley of Corpus Christi’s Brin & Brin JURY VERDICT:$43 million The year 2001 was a big one for Texas plaintiffs’ attorney Mikal C. Watts. In trials covering a wide variety of claims, Watts won nearly $100 million in judgments, including $43 million in this first plaintiff’s victory in a case involving the diabetes medication Rezulin and $20 million in a bench trial in a breach of contract case. But it could have been an even better year. Had it not been for an 11th-hour settlement while the Corpus Christi, Texas, jury in the Rezulin case was deliberating punitives, the total would have been $100 million more. The plaintiff in the Rezulin case was Margarita Sanchez, a 61-year-old diabetic. Sanchez had been diagnosed with Type II diabetes in 1983 and had begun taking Rezulin in June 1998. By the time she underwent a liver scan, he charged, the drug had caused “irreparable damage.” She’s awaiting a liver transplant. Sanchez filed a products liability action against the manufacturer and distributor of the drug, Parke-Davis Co., a division of Warner-Lambert. (Warner-Lambert is now owned by Pfizer Inc.) The plaintiff contended that Warner-Lambert, through animal studies, “knew the drug killed people’s livers.” Rezulin was first put on the market in March 1997. In March 2000, under pressure from the Food and Drug Administration, Warner-Lambert withdrew the drug from the marketplace. The FDA pushed for the withdrawal, said Watts, because the drug had been linked to liver damage in thousands of diabetic patients. The defense contended that Sanchez had an underlying liver disease that had been overlooked by her physicians when they prescribed the medication. Warner-Lambert also denied that the FDA had pushed the removal of the drug from the market because it was defective, but that it had been superseded by two safer medications. When Rezulin was introduced, the defense contended, it was a necessary drug for diabetics who were not responding well to insulin. This defense worked well in the first trial of a Rezulin case. The primary difference in this, the second Rezulin trial to reach a verdict, said plaintiffs’ co-counsel Michael Papantonio, was that the plaintiff was able to get into evidence the deposition of a Warner-Lambert scientist, Janet McGill, who “had found a causal relationship between Rezulin and liver damage,” along with information about “two felony convictions of Warner-Lambert,” including a $10 million fine over another drug and a $3 million fine in an environmental case. On Dec. 21, 2001, a Corpus Christi jury awarded Sanchez $43 million. Then the punitives phase began. During the jury’s deliberations, a settlement was reached. As it turns out, the jurors would have awarded $100 million in punitives, said Watts. But he does not regret settling: “If she doesn’t get a new liver, she’s dead in a year.” A published report indicated the settlement was more than $30 million.

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