News / Utah / 

Amway Sellers Say Jurors Improperly Awarded P&G Millions



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A jury decided Procter & Gamble Co. suffered no damages from devil-worshipping rumors but nonetheless awarded the consumer-products giant $19.25 million by counting the number of company lawyers in the courtroom, three jurors said in affidavits filed in federal court.

Lawyers for four Amway distributors who were ordered to pay the sum are trying to get the verdict thrown out because of improper deliberations. In their first step, they asked a federal judge this week to investigate misconduct on the 11-member jury.

The Lanham Act, which governs marketplace competition, allows only judges the discretion to award attorney fees, lawyers said. P&G was unaware of the allegations and filed its own motion this week asking the judge to triple the damages.

Amway's independent distributors were accused of using a company voice mail system to spread an oft-repeated but false rumor that P&G's logo -- a bearded, crescent man-in-moon looking over a field of 13 stars -- was a symbol of Satanism.

In sworn statements, three members of the Utah jury said the full panel unanimously concluded the Cincinnati-based company had failed to show any lack of sales from the recurring rumors since the 1970s. But the panel wanted to compensate P&G for "out-of-pocket" legal expenses, the three jurors said. So they counted the number of lawyers at P&G's courtroom table and guessed how many hours they worked over a decade of litigation, the jurors said.

The jury disagreed only on how much lawyers typically charge, with estimates ranging up to $600 an hour. "I had heard no evidence of attorneys fees so I stuck with zero," one juror, Bryan Tuttle, said in his affidavit. "After soliciting numbers from everybody and averaging them, we knew what a general ballpark figure would be."

Totals offered by each juror ranged from zero to $50 million and averaged out at $19.25 million, he said. Juror Tanya Platt said two others on the panel "did not want Procter & Gamble to get anything," raising questions about whether the verdict for P&G was unanimous, as it was supposed to be.

Lawyers for the Amway distributors were stunned to learn of the details, which surfaced when Tuttle alerted Randy Haugen, 53, an Ogden, Utah, businessman and one of the defendants. "That's how it all came out," Haugen's attorney, Joseph Joyce, said Friday. "Then we spoke to several jurors to confirm what the one juror claimed. One juror felt so strongly she wrote a letter to the court about the deliberations."

Joyce said he was preparing a motion asking U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart to throw out the verdict, which could lead to a new trial. "It was frustrating for us because we presented a case showing there was no damages," he said. "The jury apparently felt from one of the jury instructions that they were required to make a finding of damages. "Once they decided that, they felt they could only award inconsequential damages for attorneys' fee," Joyce said.

One of P&G's trial attorneys, Tracy H. Fowler, said he was aware of the affidavits and planned to ask the judge to ignore them. "I don't have any evidence beyond what the verdict was," he said. Until the March 16 verdict, P&G had suffered legal setbacks in several states by suing people accused of helping spread the Satan rumors.

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.

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.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported the affidavits on its Web site Friday.

------ On the Net: Procter & Gamble: http://www.pg.com

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Most recent Utah stories

Related topics

Utah

SIGN UP FOR THE KSL.COM NEWSLETTER

Catch up on the top news and features from KSL.com, sent weekly.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast