DBJ won a $2.2 billion jury verdict for Georgia Hayes, who was given diluted chemotherapy medication by her pharmacist for her cancer treatment. The verdict was the second largest ever won in Missouri courts.
Investigators found that Robert Courtney had been diluting chemotherapy medications for nearly a decade and pocketing the profits. The defense argued that the diluted drugs did not affect Hayes because her cancer would have been fatal even with the proper medication. The jurors rejected that argument and awarded $2.2 billion to “send a message to the world.”
“If Courtney’s argument had prevailed, it would have been open season on cancer patients,” said Grant L. Davis of DBJ. “People could say, ‘What does it matter? They’re going to die anyway.’”
Davis expects to collect a “sizable portion” of the verdict from the pharmacist’s malpractice insurance policies, which total $71 million. “We’re going to garnish the insurance company and put heavy pressure on them in a lot of ways to do the right thing and own up to their obligations,” Davis said.
Plaintiff’s lawyers will also pursue any money that Courtney has hidden from authorities, or that he may receive in the future from sources such as book or movie deals. “When someone does something this heinous,” Davis said, “I think the financial death penalty is absolutely appropriate.”
The original lawsuit also named Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers Squibb, two huge drug companies who did nothing after realizing Courtney’s sales figures weren’t adding up. Plaintiff’s attorneys argued that “any reasonable company would have gone to the proper authorities once it learned of the vast discrepancies between the amounts of Gezmar Courtney was buying and the amount he was selling. Lilly did not. Instead, it placed the investigation on the ‘back burner’ and hid all the relevant facts from Dr. Hunter. People died as a result, and others suffered and continue to suffer unimaginable injuries. Punitive damages are appropriate in this case.” The drug companies agreed to a confidential settlement during jury selection.
At trial, Davis called other victims of Courtney’s diluted medicine in order to show his pattern of wrongdoing. “It’s similar to the way I might, in a railroad-crossing case for example, call other people who’ve been hit by trains at the same crossing, if they’re still alive, or people who’ve had near misses.”
After the verdict, Hayes acknowledged that cancer would probably kill her and many of Courtney’s other victims before the case was finally resolved. “Though we will probably never see a dime, I feel justice has been done,” she said.
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