Plaintiff Carol Ernst reacts as the jury announces their verdict in her favor (CP photo).
- A jury in Angleton, Texas, awarded the widow of Robert Ernst more than $250 million U.S. in damages related to the medical drug Vioxx on Friday.
- The jury found the giant pharmaceutical firm Merck and Co. liable for the death of a man who took the once-popular painkiller.
- Jurors awarded Robert Ernst’s widow, Carol, $253.4 million US in damages, which is a combination of his lost pay as a Wal-Mart produce manager, mental anguish, loss of companionship and punitive damages.
- The jury – from a semi-rural county south of Houston – deliberated for 10 1/2 hours over two days before blaming the drug for killing Ernst in his sleep in 2001.
- Jurors rejected Merck’s argument that Ernst died of clogged arteries rather than a Vioxx-induced heart attack that led to his fatal arrhythmia.
The case drew attention from pharmaceutical companies, lawyers, consumers, and stock market watchers as Merck faces more than 4,200 Vioxx-related lawsuits pending across the country.
Merck said it plans to appeal.
In the end they lost, and settled for about $8 million. To them, pocket change.