West Palm Beach, FL—Jurors Friday evening awarded more than $2.5M to the owners and insurer of 21 horses fatally poisoned by a supplement during a 2009 polo championship tourney. Quorum Management v. Franck’s Lab, 2010-CA-009112.
The horses died during the U.S. Open polo championship in Wellington, FL after receiving a supplement that contained 100 times the Selenium originally prescribed by veterinarian Dr. James Belden to compounding pharmacy Franck’s Lab. The horses’ owners, Quorum Management and polo players Juan Martin Nero, Guillermo Caset, and Nicolas Espain; as well as insurer Diamond State Insurance, claim the lab, pharmacist Anthony Campbell, and Belden were responsible for negligently producing the supplement and failing to discover the error before the horses were injected.
Jurors needed less than four hours to find Franck’s Lab, through pharmacist Nefertiti Abdullah and Judy Faison, one of its employees, a combined 85 percent responsible. Jurors apportioned the other 15% of responsibility to Campbell.
The jury’s verdict cleared Belden and Dr. Frank Crespo, the team vet who injected the horses with the supplement, of liability. Crespo was not a party to the case.
Friday’s award included $1,097,000 to Diamond State Insurance for a portion of its payout on a policy covering Quorum’s lost horses. Jurors awarded Quorum nearly $290,000, and the three individual plaintiffs a total of $1.13 million for the loss of their horses.
Plaintiffs had sought about $4 million in total damages.
Friday evening’s verdict capped a two-week trial in which sides battled over who in the supplement production and delivery chain was responsible for the horses’ deaths.
During Friday’s closing arguments, Quorum Management’s attorney, Alvaro Mejer, told jurors the fatal error first occurred in a mistake Faison made in transcribing the prescription at the lab, but Mejer said evidence established Campbell bore responsibility, as the compounding lab pharmacy manager, for failing to catch and correct the error.
Mejer walked jurors through the supplement’s production process, contending Campbell initially approved the erroneous order without checking the compound prescription, then failed to check the prescription again when the lab, including pharmacist Nefertiti Abdullah, encountered problems in producing the supplement. “Tony Campbell was the chef. A new recipe was sent to the lab and he asks the assistant chef to make the recipe, The recipe turns bad, goes back to the chef. What should the chef do?” Mejer asked. “He should check the recipe, and this is what Tony Campbell did not do. He did not check the recipe.”
Fernando Aran, representing the individual plaintiffs, agreed, contrasting Campbell’s role, which he claimed was central to supervising and reviewing the compound, with Abdullah’s role, which he claimed was much more limited. “(Nefertiti Abdullah) is not in the compounding lab. She’s not responsible for new formulas (such as the supplement at issue). Her initials do not appear on any of the records that are going around,” Aran said. “Her initial appears, at that point in time, in the verification? No, in the confirmation of a prescription, not in the validation or in the approval of the formula.”
But Campbell’s attorney, Anthony Buigas, argued evidence established Abdullah, as the verification pharmacist, failed in her duty to verify the compound’s accuracy. By contrast, Buigas told jurors there wasn’t any evidence tying Campbell directly to the compound’s production. “Not one witness, not one, actually said, ‘You know what? I sat there, and I watched Anthony Campbell make this formula,’” Buigas told jurors.
Keith Puya, representing Franck’s Lab, argued unsuccessfully that, beyond the pharmacy staff, Crespo, the team’s travelling vet, bore a share of the blame because he injected the horses without checking the chemical makeup of the supplement. “Certainly it’s easy to blame all the blame on the pharmacy and individuals involved in the pharmacy,” Puya said. “But the individual who is actually using (the supplement), actually administering it, actually doing the injecting, must… bear some responsibility for this.”
The parties’ attorneys could not immediately be reached for comment.
Alvaro Mejer represents Quorum Management. Fernando Aran represents Juan Martin Nero, Guillermo Caset and Nicolas Espain. William Gericke represents Diamond State Insurance.
Hector Buigas represents Anthony Campbell. Keith Puya represents Franck's Lab. Dan Bachi represents Dr. James Belden. Keith Puya represents Franck's Lab.
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