$90 Million in Punitive Damages Awarded in Propofol Hepatitis C Trial

A $90 million payout has been awarded in a <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/defective_drugs">Propofol hepatitis C lawsuit filed against Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and Baxter International Inc. The award is for punitive damages for selling reusable Propofol vials that a patient blamed for his hepatitis, said Bloomberg.com. Propofol is an intravenous anesthetic and sedative.

Attorneys for Michael Washington—a retired U.S. Air Force mechanic—and his wife, Josephine, alleged that Washington was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 2007 after he received Propofol from a reused vial, according to Bloomberg.com. Jurors found the punitive damages for Teva and Baxter’s selling reusable Propofol vials that were sufficiently large enough to be reused by physicians, Bloomberg.com explained.

This is not the first time that the drug makers have been ordered to pay punitive damages. As a matter-of-fact, this is the third verdict against Baxter and Teva. The verdicts all involve a hepatitis outbreak in Nevada linked to Propofol. Last week, a different Las Vegas jury awarded three colonoscopy patients punitive damages in excess of $162 million over how they marketed Propofol, said Bloomberg.com, which also reported that the first trial case was resolved with a $500 million punitive verdict. As we previously note, that judgment was the largest jury award in the state’s history.

“We believe that the allegations against Teva are without merit and we plan to appeal this decision,” the U.S.-based spokesman, Teva, Denise Bradley, said in an email to Bloomberg.com. A spokeswoman for Baxter did not immediately respond to Bloomberg.com’s request for a comment on this week’s award.

The jurors in Michael Washington’s case deliberated for over three hours before finding that Teva should pay $60 million and Baxter, $30 million, which brought the total award to Washington and his wife to $104 million, said Bloomberg.com. The same jury awarded the Washington’s a total of $14 million in compensatory damages earlier this month, which was $4 million more than the couple’s lawyers were originally seeking in actual damages, said Bloomberg.com.

“I’m relieved it’s over and I hope this verdict stops this from ever happening to anyone else,” Washington said in an interview following the verdict announcement, reported Bloomberg.com.

Teva makes Propofol and McKesson Corp. is its U.S. distributor; Baxter sold Propofol for Teva until 2009, said Bloomberg.com, citing court filings, which also indicated that McKesson was not a defendant in the Washington case and that Teva agreed to pay all damages as a result of the Nevada cases. Teva is the Israel-based unit of Petach Tikva.

As we’ve previously written, the hepatitis C outbreak at the center of the Washington’s and other Nevada lawsuits was traced to the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada and its sister clinic, Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center. We have also written that the Southern Nevada Health District linked nine hepatitis C cases to unsafe injection practices at the outpatient surgical centers, saying that another 100 cases were also likely linked to the shoddy practices. About 50,000 people were tested for blood-borne diseases over the clinics’ practices.

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