A judge in a Texas lawsuit over Merck's Vioxx today reduced a $32 million jury award to $7.75 million, citing Texas' recently enacted caps on punitive damages, according to a story appearing on The Wall Street Journal's Web site.
The state jury in April found Merck liable for the death of Leonel Garza, a 71-year-old man who had a fatal heart attack within a month of taking the withdrawn painkiller. Merck was ordered to pay Garza's family $7 million in non-economic compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages.
But Judge Alex Gabert ordered the punitive damage reduced as required by state law. The law caps punitive damages at twice the amount of economic damages – lost pay—and up to $750,000 on top of non-economic damages. Because Garza was retired, the jury awarded no economic damages, so Merck was ordered to pay the most the family could receive under state law.