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In a huge victory for Wyeth, a unanimous Philadelphia jury said Friday that the pharmaceutical manufacturer doesn’t have to pay $5.5 million in potential damages that the same jury had assessed in phase one of a trial for two Utah women who claimed the diet-drug compound fen-phen damaged their aortic heart valves. Lawyers not involved with the trial said Friday that the verdict is yet another discouraging result for the thousands of fen-phen plaintiffs with cases pending in state court in Philadelphia. After nearly four days of testimony in the liability phase of the trial, the eight-member jury concluded that Wyeth negligently failed to provide reasonable information concerning the risk of heart-valve damage to the doctors who prescribed the diet drug Pondimin to the plaintiffs. However, they found this failure did not cause the plaintiffs’ doctors to prescribe them the drug. Wyeth’s trial counsel, Robert Limbacher of the Dechert firm, called the verdict significant because “it clearly validates what we’ve been saying all along — that we acted promptly and responsibly once we became aware of the potential connection between the diet drug and valvular heart disease.” Limbacher tried the case with a Dechert colleague, Andrew Gaddes, before Common Pleas Judge Gary Glazer. Friday’s verdict was announced after the jurors deliberated for approximately five hours following the liability portion of a two-phase trial. At the conclusion of the first phase, the jury awarded $5 million to Isabel Vega, 54, who took Pondimin for 13 months, and $500,000 to Camille Olsen, who took Pondimin for a year. Lawyers for the plaintiffs said the $5 million award — issued March 31 — was the largest verdict for a fen-phen plaintiff alleging heart-valve damage since the national multibillion-dollar class action settlement of fen-phen litigation in 1999. In the second, or liability, phase, which began a week ago, the jury considered whether Wyeth should be responsible for the damages. The plaintiffs attorneys were Rand P. Nolen and Scott A. Love of Fleming & Associates in Houston and Cynthia A. Clark of Bochetto & Lentz in Philadelphia. George Fleming, who works with Nolen and Love, said they would file a motion asking Glazer to enter a judgment of $5.5 million against Wyeth. Fleming and his team objected to the jury considering the issue of causation twice. He said the jurors answered questions from the judge about causation and damages in the first phase, as well as questions about Wyeth’s alleged negligence, and causation again, in the second phase. “Weird, huh?” Fleming said. “The second question [about causation] shouldn’t have been submitted under the law.”

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