From the 'Court Jestors' File

PatriotPost.US, 08-35 Gambling is a risky business, but it sure paid off for a retired police officer in Minnesota, thanks to the misguided generosity of a jury. The man was recently awarded an $8.2 million judgment—mostly punitive damages. A longtime gambler, the man claimed that the prescription drug Mirapex, used to combat Parkinson’s Disease, caused his gambling habit to become a compulsion which led to financial losses amounting to $204,000. While Boehringer Ingelheim and Pfizer, the manufacturers of the drug, did issue a warning in 2005 that Mirapex may cause compulsive behavior, The Gambler has admitted that he had been taking the drug for more than four years before his gambling became compulsive. Clearly this fact was irrelevant to the jury during deliberation. Still, the issue here is not even that the plaintiff won, but the crippling amount of the award. When wronged, people have a right under the law to be made financially whole. But punitive damages in the millions can cripple industry’s creativity and technological advances. For example, whereas the coffee case debacle led to widespread use of coffee sleeves and temperature warnings on Styrofoam, cases like the one over Mirapex may hinder the development of new drugs that help millions of people fight pain and disease. Drug companies already spending between $800 million and $1.7 billion for the development of a new product may think twice when they have to worry about the army of rapacious ambulance chasers and jury awards in the millions. Republicans should restart their 1990s tort law reform efforts.