AbbVie, an Abbott Laboratories spinoff, will face a new trial of a GlaxoSmithKline lawsuit over an AIDS drug accord after a federal appeals court said Abbott’s lawyers improperly excluded a gay man from the jury.
Equal-protection rights prohibit excluding jurors based on sexual orientation, the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco said today. The jury in Oakland, Calif., in 2011 ordered Abbott to pay Glaxo $3.5 million for breaching the drug agreement. Abbott was cleared of claims that it sought to stifle competition over HIV drugs when it quadrupled the price of the AIDS medicine Norvir in 2003.
The judge overseeing the trial permitted the exclusion during jury selection, when Abbott exercised its right to keep certain individuals off the jury. When questioned, the man said he had a male partner and had lost friends to AIDS, according to today’s ruling.
“Permitting a strike based on sexual orientation could send the false message that gays and lesbians could not be trusted to reason fairly on issues of great import to the community or the nation,” the three-judge appellate panel said.
Scott Stoffel, s spokesman for Abbott Park, Ill.-based Abbott, said the company spun off its research-based pharmaceutical business into publicly traded AbbVie last January.
“With the separation, the HIV portfolio and associated responsibilities passed to AbbVie,” Stoffel said in an e-mail.
AbbVie, based in North Chicago, Ill., is reviewing the opinion, spokeswoman Adelle Infante said in an e-mail.
Mary Anne Rhyne, a spokeswoman for London-based Glaxo, said by e-mail the company is pleased with the court’s decision calling for a new trial.
The case is SmithKline Beecham v. Abbott Laboratories, 11-7357, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (San Francisco).