Consumer-products giant Procter & Gamble Co. is asking a federal judge to ignore allegations a jury improperly awarded money to the company, which was the target of devil-worshipping rumors.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble filed the petition after three trial jurors alleged their panel concluded the company suffered no damages but compensated the P&G anyway for legal fees by counting the number of company lawyers in the courtroom.
The jury returned a $19.25 million verdict for Procter & Gamble on March 16 against four Amway distributors accused of helping spread the oft-repeated falsehood that P&G’s logo — a bearded, crescent man-in-moon looking over a field of 13 stars — was a symbol of Satanism.
Within days, word leaked out that the jury used some creative accounting to determine P&G’s award, even though it reportedly didn’t believe the company lost any sales over the rumors.
The three jurors said the full panel multiplied the number of lawyers at P&G’s courtroom table against estimates of how much lawyers make an hour.
The numbers averaged out to $19.25 million, the whistleblowers said, though it wasn’t clear how the panel could determine how many hours the lawyers put in over a decade of litigation.
In court papers filed Thursday, P&G said the reports amounted to “nothing more than unsworn statements” from three of the 11 jurors — a 12th had been excused because of illness. Unsworn statements generally are inadmissible in court.
P&G’s legal team said case law discourages judges from questioning a jury’s deliberations because otherwise “no verdict would be safe.”
The Amway defendants claim the jurors reached a prohibited quotient verdict by averaging estimates about how much P&G lawyers charged.
“Everyone came up with their own number, which they added up and divided them by the number of jurors. That’s an improper quotient verdict,” said Joseph Joyce, one of the attorneys representing the Amway distributors.
P&G argued it wasn’t a quotient verdict because in the end, all jurors agreed to the final amount and affirmed it when polled by the judge.
Lawyers for the Amway defendants — including 53-year-old Ogden businessman Randy L. Haugen — want U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart to throw out the verdict.
In their first step, they asked Stewart last month to haul back the jurors for questioning.
Not so fast, P&G said.
“We heard from only three jurors. We haven’t heard from the other eight. And by and large we’re hearing words from the defendants’ lawyers who put the affidavits together. Even those are inconsistent and contradictory,” said Tracy H. Fowler, a Salt Lake City lawyer from one of the law firms that represented Procter & Gamble.
Joyce said that both sides agreed to not contact any more jurors to preserve Stewart’s opportunity to conduct an impartial investigation.
Early in the Utah case, the late U.S. Magistrate Ronald Boyce warned P&G’s lawyers they faced a “very heavy, heavy burden” trying to collect damages.
“You could probably get three ladies … to say that maybe they didn’t buy a bar of soap or something and that is going to be your damage claim,” said Boyce, according to a court transcript.
But P&G insists it ran up costs fighting the rumors and that its call center was periodically swamped with consumer queries about the devil rumors.
All told, the company rang up hundreds of millions of dollars in lost sales and internal expenses, and it took aggressive legal action for the rumors to start falling off, said P&G spokesman Terry Loftus.
Amway is a subsidiary of Alticor Inc., a global direct-sales company based in Ada, Mich., with an army of distributors who sell a broad range of products.
It wasn’t clear when Stewart might sort things out or call a hearing for arguments.
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Procter & Gamble: http://www.pg.com
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