No verdict in NJ trial over withdrawn painkiller; jury heads home |

No verdict in NJ trial over withdrawn painkiller; jury heads home

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – A jury deliberated for 6 1/2 hours Wednesday without reaching a verdict in a product liability trial accusing Merck & Co.’s painkiller Vioxx of causing a man’s heart attack.The six-woman, three-man panel – which includes an assistant county prosecutor, a retired surgeon’s wife and a teacher – will try again Thursday to decide whether the drug played a part in the heart attack suffered by Frederick “Mike” Humeston, a postal worker from Boise, Idaho.His civil suit accuses Merck of failing to warn physicians and consumers about risks posed by Vioxx, which the company stopped selling last year because of links to heart attacks and strokes with long-term use.Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee, who presided over the case, told jurors before they began deliberations Tuesday to take their time weighing the evidence. They spent an hour deliberating Tuesday before returning Wednesday and working through lunch.”They’re obviously working hard,” said David Buchanan, one of Humeston’s lawyers.The case, which is the second Vioxx lawsuit to go to trial, took seven weeks to present, with complex testimony about the inner workings of the heart and detailed descriptions about the clinical studies Merck conducted before and after it began selling Vioxx in 1999.Merck lost the first trial over Vioxx when a Texas jury awarded $253 million in damages to the widow of a Vioxx user. Texas law requires that award to be cut to no more than $26 million. Merck plans to appeal.Jurors have been instructed to avoid media accounts of the trial while they are serving on the panel. They are not sequestered, however, and are allowed to go home at night.The first question for jurors is whether Merck failed to adequately warn doctors of risks it either knew or should have known about prior to Humeston’s heart attack.If jurors find Merck failed to warn, they would then rule on whether Vioxx contributed to Humeston’s heart attack and whether he and his wife should get compensatory damages.If the jury say yes to compensatory damages, jurors would then hear arguments from Merck and Humeston’s lawyers about whether punitive damages should be awarded to punish Merck.If Merck is cleared of failing to warn, the jury still must consider whether Merck committed consumer fraud in marketing Vioxx by giving physicians misleading information or omitting data about its risks.Vail, Colorado

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