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M. Brandon Smith
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$47.5 Million Vioxx Verdict After Idaho Man Suffers Heart Attack

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An Atlantic City jury returned a plaintiff’s verdict today against Merck & Co. to the tune of $47.5 million after its arthritis drug Vioxx lead to an Idaho postal worker’s heart attack. $20 of the $47.5 million was awarded for compensatory damages and the remaining $27.5 million was awarded as punitive damages in order to punish Merck & Co. for their failure to warn about the cardiovascular risks associated with the use of Vioxx. This marks the second Vioxx trial Frederick “Mike” Humeston has been involved in after a judge granted a new trial in his first trial when new evidence was discovered showing serious risks and complications after only short term use of Vioxx.

Humeston lost his first trial against the pharmaceutical giant in 2005, but New Jersey Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee granted him a second trial because new evidence surfaced that short-term Vioxx use could also be risky; Humeston took the drug on and off for about two months.

The five-man, three-woman jury ruled on March 2 that Merck was negligent and did not provide adequate warning about those risks before Humeston’s heart attack. That set the stage for a second phase of the trial, with the jury last week hearing evidence on whether Vioxx contributed to Humeston’s heart attack, entitling him to damages.

Then, after brief arguments over punitive damages, the jury deliberated briefly late Monday and decided to assess $27.5 million in punitive damages against Merck.