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Lawyers for Amway distributors ordered to pay more than $19 million to Procter & Gamble for spreading the false rumor that the household products company supported a satanic church are asking for an investigation into possible jury misconduct.
In a motion filed Monday, they say jurors set the award by using information that was not introduced at the trial in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City - basing the amount on their own estimates of how much the plaintiff spent on attorneys' fees.
P&G lawyers this week asked Judge Ted Stewart, who presided over the trial, to triple the award to nearly $58 million. In addition, they request interest on the original award dating back to May 1, 1995.
The lawsuit alleged that Amway distributors repeated the lie that P&G's president had appeared on a talk show and announced the company's affiliation with the Church of Satan. Named as defendants were high-ranking Amway dealer Randy Haugen of Ogden and three other distributors, all accused of violating the federal Lanham Act by deceiving consumers about how Cincinnati-based P&G used its profits.
The Lanham Act, which covers trademarks and false advertising claims by companies involving their own or competitors' goods, allows judges to triple jury awards.
"An award of enhanced damages would be grounded in part on compensating P&G for its loss of goodwill," P&G lawyers wrote in the motion, submitted Tuesday.
The Amway defendants, however, say they should pay nothing. They say the jury's decision was not unanimous, as required by law, and the award was based on an impermissible "quotient verdict."
The defense argues that P&G could not prove at trial a single lost sale due to the lie, so the jurors arrived at the damage award by calculating the amount of the plaintiff's attorneys' fees. Each of the 11 jurors (a 12th was excused because of illness) calculated an amount and then the panel divided by 11, according to the defense.
During these deliberations, several of the jurors allegedly gave opinions of how much attorneys charged per hour, citing amounts ranging from $300 to $600. Two submitted "zero" verdicts because no evidence of attorney fees had been submitted, the defense motion says.
The jurors considered extraneous, prejudicial information, including the number of lawyers sitting at P&G's counsel table at trial and the estimated hourly rate of compensation, the defense says. It submitted affidavits from three jurors to back up its claim.
According to court records, Haugen placed an audio message on Amway's voice-mail system in April 1995 that repeated the Satanic rumor and added his approval by saying, "This is a great message." The message specifically identified 43 P&G products by name and urged listeners to buy Amway products instead.
The other three defendants - Steven E. Brady, Stephen L. Bybee and Ted Randal Walker - forwarded the message. All four acknowledge the rumor is false but say they believed at the time it was true.
The verdict was returned on March 16 after a two-week trial.
Amway Corp. earlier was dismissed as a defendant. The four defendants are technically independent business owners who distribute Amway products, not directly employed by Amway.