SALT LAKE CITY — Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is accusing BYU of tainting the jury pool for an upcoming multibillion dollar trial over the drug Celebrex by taking its side of the story to the media.
Pfizer says BYU "went on the offensive" Wednesday when its lawyers made "inflammatory and prejudicial" statements to local broadcasts outlets, three of which aired stories. It asked a federal judge Friday to postpone the trial or move it to New York or Missouri.
"As the court already recognized and informed the lawyers for both parties, this is a particularly difficult one for seating an unbiased jury," wrote Pfizer's Salt Lake-based attorney, Brent O. Hatch.
"Regrettably, plaintiff Brigham Young University and its lawyers, in an effort to press every advantage, have intentionally acted to thwart that goal."
David Thomas, BYU deputy general counsel, said Pfizer's motion has no basis in fact or law, and notes that both sides have provided comments and responses to the media over the years.
"BYU believes that it is appropriate and fair for both parties to communicate with the media to ensure the accuracy of coverage. BYU does not believe that any news story or any statement of either party has or is likely to prejudice a potential jury," he said in a statement.
Last week, Hatch and a Pfizer representative from the company's New York headquarters also met with local media to tell the company's side of the story. The meetings were for background only.
BYU and Pfizer are locked into a bitter six-year court battle over the discovery of an enzyme that led to the development of Celebrex, a revolutionary drug to treat arthritis and inflammation. An eight-week jury try is scheduled to begin May 29 in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City.
Three TV stations — KUTV, KTVX and FOX 13 — aired stories after BYU lawyers arranged to meet with them this week. KSL and the Deseret News met with the lawyers as well but opted not to run stories.
But Pfizer contends BYU's "coordinated press campaign" includes a March 9 story on KSL and in the Deseret News following a court hearing in the case. Its change of venue motion points out that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owns KSL and BYU.
"Whatever hope there may have been of obtaining jurors who, despite potential ties to important local institutions such as BYU or the LDS Church, could be impartial, BYU has now willfully made that task impossible," wrote Hatch, whose undergraduate degree came from BYU.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Pfizer accuses BYU of tainting jury pool in multibillion dollar Celebrex case | Deseret News