[JURIST] A California jury on Wednesday found Merck [corporate website] not liable for causing the heart attack [Merck press release] of 71-year old Stewart Grossberg, determining Merck's painkiller Vioxx [Merck Vioxx Information Center website; JURIST news archive] did not cause Grossberg's heart ailments. Merck general counsel Kenneth Frazier said Merck is "pleased with the verdict" and that it demonstrates why the company plans to defend each case independently. The California verdict comes in the eighth Vioxx trial to reach a verdict out of more than 16,000 pending lawsuits.
Merck has now won five Vioxx cases and lost three Vioxx cases, after a New Jersey jury found Merck not liable [JURIST report] for a woman's heart attack and that the company did not fail to warn the woman of the heart risks involved with the painkiller. In April, a New Jersey state court jury awarded $9 million [JURIST report] in punitive damages and $4.5 million in compensatory damages to the family of a 77-year-old heart attack victim. Another Texas jury found Merck liable last year for the death of a 59 year-old marathon runner who had taken the drug for eight months, awarding $253 million [JURIST report]; that award was reduced to $26 million under Texas punitive damages caps. A different Texas jury also awarded the family of a 71-year old man who died from a heart attack $32 million [JURIST report] - $7 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages - in April. Merck pulled the drug from the market in September 2004 after a study showed that it could double the risk of heart attack or stroke if taken for more than 18 months. Merck has set aside $1 billion to fight every Vioxx court challenge. AP has more. The Los Angeles Times has local coverage.