According to an article on Bloomberg, the jury in the current New Jersey Vioxx case came in with a split verdict — $45 for one claimant, and $4.5 million for the other. Here are excerpts from the article:
Merck & Co. must pay at least $4.5 million to a 77-year-old man who claimed its painkiller Vioxx caused his heart attack and nothing to another plaintiff for the same claim, a New Jersey jury ruled.
Jurors in Atlantic City will weigh punitive damages tomorrow after finding Vioxx was a “substantial” factor in the heart attack of John McDarby, a wheelchair-bound diabetic. Jurors found Merck failed to warn McDarby and another plaintiff, Thomas Cona, 60, of the drug’s risks. Vioxx played no role in Cona’s heart attack, jurors said. Jurors also said Merck committed consumer fraud, awarding $3,969 on that claim to McDarby and $45 to Cona.
New Jersey law limits punitive damages to five times the amount of compensatory damages, or a maximum of $22.5 million for McDarby. Cona isn’t eligible for a punitive award.
The jury found Merck violated New Jersey’s consumer fraud law in two ways. It said Merck misled physicians about the cardiovascular risks of Vioxx and also concealed information from doctors about those risks. Jurors said Merck didn’t engage in “unconscionable commercial practices” in marketing the drug. The $3,969 awarded to McDarby and $45 to Cona will be tripled under the state consumer law.
Lawyers for Cona and McDarby said Merck rushed Vioxx to market without proper testing, ignored red flags on its safety, bullied U.S. regulators and failed to disclose its risks. Merck said it properly researched the drug, disclosed its data to regulators and warned doctors.
McDarby, whose heart attack was on April 15, 2004, also broke a hip that day. Merck suggested that his heart attack came after he fell and broke his hip. McDarby’s lawyers said he broke it as he crumpled to the ground with a heart attack. He later broke his other hip. McDarby sought compensatory damages for his heart attack and both hip fractures.
The consumer-fraud verdict will help Vioxx patients in a class-action lawsuit over Vioxx filed by health maintenance organizations, insurers, and unions, said plaintiffs’ attorney Christopher Seeger. He said Higbee, who is overseeing 5,000 Vioxx cases, should apply the findings of the McDarby jury to the class-action case, which he said could be worth $10 billion.