Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Note From the Jury That You Didn't Want

At least if you are on the defense side: Novartis Jury Asks About 'Range' of Damages . The note comes in a sex discrimination case brought by twelve named plaintiffs againt Novartis.

Although it does indicate that the jury is beyond liability, any one who has been waiting (im)patiently in a court room while a jury deliberates, knows that it is quite difficult to tell what is going on based on just a single request.

Some of it depends on the wording of the charge. If the questions are not predicated, then a damage question may or may not mean anything on damages.

And you never know, the range they could be contemplating could be from zero to $1,000. Or not.

In any event, although not that easy to do, the basic answer is to wait and see.

Updated 4:44 p.m. CDST:  Yep, it was not a particularly good sign. According to the report from Bloomberg, Novartis Must Pay Punitive Damages in Sex-bias Case, $3.4 million for the 12 named plaintiffs. This case has a lot of procedural steps still to resolve including a punitive damage hearing which I think will be tomorrow, and a second finding of compensatory damages on behalf of the class. Where in those steps the appeal, which Novartis has already promised, comes I don't know.

Updated May 25, 2010S: A little late to the party on reporting this, but by now everyone is probably well aware that the punitive damage award was $250 million. The NYT story is here. As it notes, the company still has to deal with claims for compensatory damages from almost 6,000 class members. Bloomberg Businessweek quotes the plaintiffs' counsel as saying they believe that figure could ultimately reach close to one billion dollars.

Unlike many trials, the actual tactics and trying of this lawsuit have gotten a fair amount of attention and press, including a link to the defense counsel's final argument at the liability phase.  See for example, I’d Like Some Sex With That Drug Order, by Ann Woolner at and ‘Beyond Tone Deaf’: A Scathing Look at Novartis’s Defense Strategy, from the WSJ law blog. 

I don't have a category for multi-million dollar verdicts, and of course this is a class case, but still I think it clearly belongs in the MDV category.
Although it should go without saying, these are at this point verdicts, and there are still many hurdles before Novartis will be foreced to pay the first dollar to any of the named plaintiffs or class members.

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