Jury Awards Widow $253 Million in First Vioxx Trial

Justice was served in Texas today. The jury in the first Vioxx case to go to trial awarded $253 million to the wife of the deceased marathon runner, Robert Ernst. This award included $229 million in “exemplary” or punitive damages, sending a clear message to Merck that the public will not stand for the harm caused to potentially tens of thousands of Americans. The $229 million awarded in punitives is the exact amount Merck saved by delaying the warning label update for nearly seven months after the FDA’s request. Unfortunately, this punitive award will be reduced under Texas law to twice the amount of economic damages awarded plus $750,000 or about $1.65 million.
Mr. Ernst died of an arrythmia that the jury found was caused by a heart attack. He was in excellent health, and was only married to his wife for four years before his death.
This verdict is excellent news for all Vioxx plaintiffs across the country. It is the first step in forcing Merck to account for the damage caused by their defective drug and deceptive marketing practices.
Merck of course continues to run from responsibility, and vows to appeal the decision.

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