A state court jury in Angleton, Texas awarded a widow $253 million against Merck in the first Vioxx case to go to trial. She and her lawyers will never see the money, of course; apart from anything else, Texas law on punitive damages will take away around 90% of the amount the jury awarded, and Texas’ appellate courts, which tend to scrutinize jury verdicts pretty carefully, may take away still more, or even reverse the verdict entirely.
The problem is that this was the first of several thousand Vioxx cases to go to trial. It isn’t feasible to try them all, so the first few verdicts will tend to set the ground rules for future settlements. Even though the plaintiff will never collect the bulk of this particular verdict, it likely will cost Merck more than $250 million in the years to come. The company’s stock lost more than $5 billion in value today.
I’ve always been a defender of the jury system. Most juries are dedicated, smart, and perceptive. The problem is that one ridiculous verdict like this one, usually driven by self-important jurors who want to “send a message” rather than simply finding the facts, can outweigh 100 sensible verdicts.
Via Power Line News.
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