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A Kansas City, Mo., jury awarded $2.2 billion Thursday to a cancer patient whose pharmacist watered down her chemotherapy drugs. As the jurors left the courtroom, each of them hugged the woman, Georgia Hayes, who brought the first of more than 400 lawsuits against former pharmacist Robert R. Courtney. “We wanted to send a message out to the world that it shouldn’t have happened in the first place,” juror Keith Freeberg said. The award consists of $2 billion in punitive damages and more than $225 million in actual damages. Courtney pleaded guilty earlier this year to diluting the chemotherapy drugs he prepared for Hayes and other cancer patients. He faces up to 30 years in federal prison. He has said he watered down the drugs for profit. Hayes, 44, wept as she testified Wednesday. “If I had my wish, they would paint all of our faces on his cellblock wall so that when he goes to sleep at night, we are the last thing he sees and when he wakes up in the morning, we are the first thing he sees,” she said. She is unlikely to collect much: Most of Courtney’s assets, once estimated at $12 million, were seized by the government for a victims’ fund. “Though we probably will never see a dime, I feel justice has been done,” Hayes said. Hayes was diagnosed with cancer in 1996. By 2001, surgeons had removed a tumor and part of her colon. Witnesses for both sides differed on whether Hayes had been injured by Courtney’s actions. One oncologist testified that she probably missed her best chance for a cure because she received diluted medicine, and said she will probably not survive her ovarian cancer. Courtney’s attorneys, however, played videotaped depositions from two doctors skeptical that she is sicker today because of the watered-down drugs. Both sides agreed that Hayes suffered $578,881 in lost wages and medical expenses. But her attorney asked jurors to order Courtney to pay Hayes more than $1 billion in damages to send a message. “If we keep just one person from doing what Robert Courtney did, can you imagine how many we’re going to affect?” attorney Grant L. Davis asked. Courtney’s attorney, David Buchanan, urged the jury not to award an excessive verdict, noting there are still hundreds of lawsuits pending against his client. He also said a big award would call the credibility of the jury system into question. “When you hear about verdicts that people think are too high, it’s an attack” on the jury system, Buchanan said. Still, the attorney said he was not surprised by the size of the verdict. “I think the entire community has been outraged,” he said. “I’m sorry I had to get up and make those arguments.” Courtney pleaded guilty in February to adulterating, misbranding and tampering with medications. Federal authorities have said Courtney’s scheme may have affected as many as 400 doctors, 4,200 patients and 98,000 prescriptions. Courtney has said he diluted the drugs for profit and because he owed thousands in taxes and church pledges. He has been stripped of his pharmacy licenses and forced to sell two pharmacies, in Kansas City and in suburban Merriam, Kan. Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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