NEW YORK (CNN/Money) – Merck has been held liable by a Texas jury in the first lawsuit involving its former blockbuster drug Vioxx, in a case that could have a profound effect on thousands of other cases filed against the company.
Plaintiff Carol Ernst has won her lawsuit in Texas Superior Court, which blames Vioxx for the 2001 death of her husband, Robert Ernst, a 59-year-old marathon runner and Wal-Mart worker who was taking the arthritis painkiller at the time of his death. Ernst died of a heart attack.
The verdict held Merck liable for the death.
The jury awarded more than $250 million in total damages — a $24 million penalty to Carol Ernst for mental anguish and loss of companionship and $229 million in punitive damages.
Ernst’s Houston-based lawyer, Mark Lanier, was seeking $40.4 million in damages and after the verdict said he expected the punitive damages award to be reduced according to Texas law.
After the verdict, Merck said it would appeal the jury’s finding.
August 19, 2005 by