A Texas jury rules against Merck & Co., awarding $253.4 million in damages to the widow of a man who died of causes that have not been linked to the withdrawn painkiller Vioxx.
By one line of thinking, it should have been an easy case, because the patient was said to have died of an arrhythmia, a type of heart problem that Vioxx has not been shown to cause. But Mark Lanier, the lawyer for plaintiff Carol Ernst, was able to convince the jury that her husband Robert, a triathlete, died of a heart attack. "This was my race for Robert," she told CNBC.
"The fact that Merck lost, and that the award was sizable, will likely energize the plaintiffs' [attorneys] and will increase the frequency at which the company gets sued," wrote Timothy Anderson of Prudential Equity Group. "Investors should prepare for a multiyear legal battle."
This is only the first of many cases against Merck. In the coming months, a case will be heard in New Jersey. And the first federal case against Merck will be tried in New Orleans in November. After that, there are some 4,000 other state and federal cases. That number is expected to swell to 10,000 or more.
David R. Henderson and Charles L. Hooper gave the case against the case back in January.