[JURIST] A Texas appeals court Wednesday overturned [opinion text] a jury verdict [JURIST report] that found pharmaceutical giant Merck [corporate website] liable for the death of a 71-year-old man who died from a heart attack within a month of taking Merck's painkiller Vioxx [Merck Vioxx Information Center website; JURIST news archive]. The jury had ordered Merck to pay $32 million in damages to the family of Leonel Garza – $7 million in non-economic compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages – but a state cap later reduced that amount to $7.75 million. The Texas Fourth Court of Appeals [official website] found that Garza's family had failed to show that Garza's heart problems were tied to his use of Vioxx.
Merck has been involved in a stream of Vioxx-related litigation during the last few years, including state and federal lawsuits in Louisiana, New Jersey, and California [JURIST reports]. In September 2007, the New Jersey Supreme Court dismissed [JURIST report] a class action lawsuit filed against Merck, reversing a lower court's decision to grant nationwide class certification in the case. In November 2007, Merck said that it had agreed to pay $4.85 billion to settle all pending lawsuits [press release; JURIST report] regarding its marketing and distribution of Vioxx. AP has more.