A New Jersey jury that last week awarded $4.5 million in compensation to a man who suffered a heart condition after long-time use of the painkiller Vioxx has added $9 million in punitive damages.
Vioxx-maker Merck & Co, immediately announced it would appeal both the compensatory and punitive damages verdicts.
“Merck’s actions were proper and did not, in any way, call for this award as defined by New Jersey law,” said Chuck Harrell of Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada, a member of Merck’s defense team. “The evidence was clear that we provided the U.S. Food and Drug Administration with the information about VIOXX that we were required to provide and under New Jersey law, that means punitive damages should not have been awarded.”
A New Jersey law passed in 1985 limits punitive damages to up to five times the compensatory award amount, which in this case would have been $22.5 million.
Harrell maintained that the jury heard “irrelevant and prejudicial information from the plaintiffs’ attorneys.”
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