Almost a year after jurors in Angleton, Tex. returned a $253.4 million verdict against VIOXX® manufacturer Merck & Co., 23rd District Judge Ben Hardin signed a final judgment awarding the plaintiffs $26.1 million in damages, plus $1.25 million in pre-judgment interest.
Judge Hardin ordered Merck to pay $24.45 million in actual damages but reduced the jury’s award of $220 million in punitive damages to $1.65 million, which is the limit allowed by Texas law.
Carol A. Ernst, et al. v. Merck & Co. Inc. was the first VIOXX® case to go to trial. Jurors found Merck liable in the 2001 death of Robert Ernst, a physically fit triathlete who died after taking the drug.
Mark Lanier, founder of The Lanier Law Firm and counsel to Carol Ernst, told Texas Lawyer that he is pleased with the judgment but will appeal it on the grounds that Texas’ statutory cap on punitive damages is unconstitutional.