The jury in the nation’s first Vioxx lawsuit, in Angleton, Texas, returned a verdict of $253.4 million in damages against the defendant, Merck, Inc.
Texas has arbitrary caps on damages, and the plaintiff widow will not receive this much money, even if the case is upheld on appeal, but this is a great victory for the plaintiff against the manufacturer of a dangerous drug.
The jury awarded $450,000 in economic damages for the projected lost earnings of the deceased, $24 million for mental anguish and loss of companionship, and $229 million in punitive damages.
Under Texas law, as applied to this particular case, punitive damages are arbitrarily capped at two times the amount of economic damages, plus $750,000. Therefore the widow was actually awarded $1.65 million, in addition to the $24 million in mental anguish. Texas appellate courts are notorious for reducing the amounts of jury awards, so even though the jury awarded $253.4 million, it’s possible the widow will end up with less than 10% of that amount. Plus, there is always the possibility that an appellate court will overturn the verdict entirely.