Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Punitive Damages in NJ Vioxx Case

In the retrial of the Humeston Vioxx case in New Jersey, the jury yesterday afternoon found Merck liable for punitive damages, adding $27.5 million of punitives to the $20 million compensatory damages verdict it had rendered earlier in the day.  Here are excerpts from the AP story in the Houston Chronicle -- Vioxx Jury Awards $47.5M to Idaho Couple:

Merck & Co.'s painkiller Vioxx contributed to an Idaho postal worker's heart attack, a jury in Atlantic City ruled Monday, reversing the verdict in the man's first trial and hitting Merck with a total of $47.5 million in damages.

In one of Merck's biggest losses over the drug so far, the jurors awarded the man and his wife $20 million in compensatory damages Monday morning, then later said Merck should pay $27.5 million in punitive damages.


The jurors, after deliberating for about five hours over two days, awarded Humeston $18 million in compensatory damages for pain and suffering and gave $2 million to his wife, Mary. Then, after brief arguments over punitive damages, the jury deliberated briefly late Monday afternoon and decided to assess $27.5 million in punitive damages against Merck.


Humeston lost his first trial against the pharmaceutical giant in 2005, but New Jersey Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee granted him a second trial because new evidence surfaced that short-term Vioxx use could also be risky; Humeston took the drug on and off for about two months. Merck insists Vioxx didn't increase cardiac risks until after 18 months of use, but many doctors say research disproves that.



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