Earlier this month, we told you about a major product liability trial taking place in Clark County pitting an elderly man against three global pharmaceutical conglomerates. The suit arose from the 2008 outbreak of hepatitis C which swept through the valley. The outbreak was eventually traced back to contaminated syringes which were used to administer an anesthetic called propofol. These syringes were filled from vials of the drug that had already been opened, which was against medical safety protocol. The plaintiffs argued that the drug companies were liable because they sold 50 milliliter vials of propofol to outpatient clinics who only needed 10 to 20 milliliters of the anesthetic per procedure.
Last week, a Clark County jury awarded $104 million to an elderly man who contracted the disease from the syringes that were inserted into the reused vials. $90 million of those damages were punitive.
And this week, another jury in Clark County ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in a similar lawsuit that was linked to the same rash of hepatitis C cases. These jurors ordered Baxter, Teva, and McKesson Corp. to pay a total of $182.6 million in damages to five people affected by the outbreak. All but $20.1 million of that figure was for punitive damages.
The pharmaceutical companies have indicated that they will appeal both cases, as well as another verdict last year which slapped Teva and Baxter with a whopping $500 million in damages.
In all three cases, the jurors felt that the companies should have known that the propofol drug vials would be reused despite the warnings displayed on the products. The defendants blamed medical personnel who actually used the syringes with the reused propofol vials.