Supreme Court saves $30-million verdict, denies Sandoz re-hearing

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A $30-million payout for the state remains intact today as the Mississippi Supreme Court voted to deny appeal to an international drug company.

The decision comes almost six months after Sandoz Inc.’s motion to reconsider a 2011 verdict from Rankin County.

Spokesmen for either side were not immediately available to comment. It also wasn’t immediately clear if Sandoz has any other maneuvers to overturn the verdict or denial of its motion.

“It’s over,” said an attorney who worked on the case but asked not to be identified yet.

Mississippi Supreme Court, 2016: Front, from left, Justices Jess Dickinson, Chief William Waller Jr., Michael Randolph; back, Justices Dawn Beam, Josiah Coleman, Jim Kitchens, Ann Lamar, Leslie King, Jimmy Maxwell

Mississippi Supreme Court

Mississippi Supreme Court, 2016: Front, from left, Justices Jess Dickinson, Chief William Waller Jr., Michael Randolph; back, Justices Dawn Beam, Josiah Coleman, Jim Kitchens, Ann Lamar, Leslie King, Jimmy Maxwell

Today’s result came without a written opinion, noting votes to grant a re-hearing were from justices Jess Dickinson, Ann Lamar and Josiah Coleman. Not participating were Chief Justice William Waller Jr. and new justice Jimmy Maxwell.

Votes not to grant rehearing came from justices Jim Kitchens, Leslie King, Michael Randolph and new justice Dawn Beam.

The state’s apparent payday is the result of a Rankin County Chancery Court verdict rendered Sept. 2, 2011, by Judge Thomas L. Zebert after Mississippi Medicaid sued Sandoz, an international generic drug company, over claims it fraudulently set a “made-up” price for drugs used to gauge state Medicaid reimbursements from Jan. 1, 1991, through Oct. 20, 2005.

After a lengthy trial, Zebert ordered Sandoz to reimburse Mississippi Medicaid $23,954,618, another $2,699,000 for per-violation damages plus about $11 million in punitive damages, which later was reduced to $3,750,000.

Sandoz appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court, but a 4-4 split by the state’s highest court in October 2015 upheld the lower court’s verdict.

The drug company asked for a re-hearing before the nine-member Mississippi Supreme Court, which has two new justices not part of the original appeal split. Chief Justice William Waller Jr., who did not participate in the 2015 decision, was available to bring his vote to bear to total three new votes.

Sources close to the case say they expect about 25 percent of the payday to go to the team of private attorneys who represented Medicaid with the rest going to the state plus about 4 percent compounded interest.