Merck & Co’s bid to overturn a legal award of around $8 million to the family of a man who had been taking the painkiller Vioxx and died of a heart attack has failed after a judge let the time limit for a new trial run down.
Judge Alex Gabert in Rio Grande City, Texas, allowed a 75- day time limit for granting the company a new trial to expire without taking action, which has effectively denied the drugmaker’s request. The case involved the family of Leonel Garza who were awarded $32 million, later reduced under Texas capping laws - after a jury found that Vioxx (rofecoxib) caused the death of the 71-year-old in 2001, even though Mr Garza only used the painkiller for less than a month to control arthritis symptoms.
Merck appealed the decision when it came to light that one of the jurors in the case received interest-free loans from Mr Garza’s widow. Jose Manuel Rios had told lawyers that Felicia Garza had given him loans of $1,500 to $2,500, and Merck claimed that he actually received seven loans from Garza totalling $12,700 and there was no evidence of repayment. The company has said that it will appeal again.
More than 27,000 Vioxx lawsuits have been filed by people and Merck has won eight of the 12 cases that have come to trial. The firm is determined to fight every lawsuit and has set aside $1.6 billion to pay legal costs.