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Big Napa Trial Ready

Mar 21, 2003 | NapaNet Daily News

The case of a Napa man who died after taking heartburn medicine made a couple of significant strides Thursday and the pre-trial phase is close to conclusion.

After finalizing the jury in the morning, Napa County Superior Court Judge Scott Snowden ruled on two crucial preliminary motions.

The estate of John Calvert, who died of a heart attack in Sept. 13, 1999, is suing Janssen Pharmaceutica, a division of Johnson & Johnson, for manufacturing Propulsid, which has been off the market since 2000. Napa physician Thomas Suard, who prescribed the drug to Calvert, is also being sued.

Snowden ruled that there will be nothing said about punitive damages during the course of the trial until evidence of Calvert's actual time of death arises. It will have to be proven that Calvert did not immediately die after having the heart attack for punitive damages to be considered. Punitive damages are levied to punish the defendant and normally are much higher than actual damages.

"The simplest thing to do is to listen to what the doctors say (on the witness stand)," Snowden said.

Snowden also ruled that the fact that Calvert's doctors recommended heart surgery but Calvert declined to do so three years before his death will be permissable.

With a jury comprised of six women, six men and two women alternates, opening testimonies will be heard Tuesday.

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