New Jersey Jury Awards $9 Million in Punitive Damages Against Maker of VIOXX®
(Atlantic City, N.J.) A jury in New Jersey Superior Court Judge Carol E.Higbee’s court has awarded punitive damages against Merck & Co, manufacturer of VIOXX®. Jurors found that the drug maker intentionally withheld from the federal Food and Drug Administration damaging information about the VIOXX®. The arthritis drug has been linked to increased incidences of heart attacks and strokes.
Jurors awarded John McDarby, 76, of Park Ridge, N.J., $9 million in punitive damages. Previously, jurors had awarded McDarby $4.5 million in compensatory damages.
Mark Lanier argued on behalf of Mr. McDarby during the punitive phase. “We have crossed a threshold in these VIOXX® cases. Because of this jury, we know that Merck not only failed to warn consumers about the dangers of their drug, they actually built a wall of deception and lies,” says Lanier. “Merck can no longer claim that they tried to do the right thing in marketing and developing VIOXX®”
At the conclusion of testimony jurors, in awarding $4.5 million to Mr. McDarby, found that the company failed to warn consumers about research data that showed VIOXX® users were twice as likely to suffer from heart attacks as compared to users of competing arthritis drugs. The jurors agreed that VIOXX® had contributed to causing Mr. McDarby’s heart attack. He took the drug for four years. Jurors also awarded $135 to Thomas Cona, 60, of Cherry Hill, NJ, to cover the cost of his prescriptions. Jurors decided that VIOXX® did not contribute to Mr. Cona’s heart attack.
This is the second plaintiff’s verdict against Merck & Co. in connection with its controversial VIOXX® painkiller, which Merck withdrew from the market in September 2004.
Last August, a jury in Brazoria County, Texas, awarded a $253 million verdict against Merck. In that case, the jury ruled against Merck on each of three key questions: they found Merck failed to warn doctors about the danger posed by VIOXX®, that the drug was improperly designed, and that Merck’s negligence caused the death of Robert Ernst, a physically fit triathlete.
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