The Ernst v. Merck Jury: On Sending a Message to Merck and Big Pharma
The Association of Trial Lawyers of America ("ATLA"), of which I am a proud member, has compiled selected statements made by some of the jurors who heard the evidence presented during the Ernst v. Merck trial in Texas. These Vioxx juror quotes provide some insight about what inspired this jury to hand down their massive $253 million verdict in favor of the plaintiff in the Ernst case.
Today's segment will focus on how the Ernst jury believed it was sending a message to Merck and Big Pharma as concerns unsafe drug issues, and Vioxx in particular, by means of its verdict.
Part Two of this series will focus on how the Ernst jury considered Merck's decision to market Vioxx despite knowing about the cardiovascular problems associated with their drug.
Last but not least, Part Three will delve into how the Ernst jury determined that punitive damages were warranted, and how the jurors arrived at the $229 million punitive damages amount.
Now, let's see what members of the Ernst jury had to say about the message they meant to send by the verdict which they rendered in Brazoria County, Texas on August 19, 2005.
• “‘Stop doing the minimum to put a drug on the market,’” juror Derrick Chizer said. ‘Go out there and do your very best. ... Merck makes a lot of medicines. They're staking our lives. Be responsible.’” [The Dallas Morning News, 8/20/05]
• “Juror Derrick Chizer, who voted for Ernst, said the majority of jurors believed a heart attack triggered the Texas man's fatal arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat. ‘It could have been prevented,’ he said. ‘That is the message (to pharmaceutical companies). Respect us.’” [The Associated Press, 8/20/05]
• “[Juror Derrick] Chizer said the message jurors wanted to send to Merck was for the company to take their responsibility seriously. ‘Every life counts to us. They should be responsible. If they care, then show it,’ said Chizer, 43, of Pearland, who works for the Social Security Administration. [The Houston Chronicle, 8/20/05]
• Juror Lorraine Blas: “We wanted to make a statement. We wanted to let all the companies know that they can't do this. It's not right. You can't hide information. You have to give all the information.” [The Early Show, CBS News Transcripts, 8/20/05]
• “‘They needed to be held accountable for putting a drug out there that shouldn't be out there,’ said Stacy Smith, a 21-year-old child care provider who stood with the majority in the 10-2 vote in favor of the man's widow, Carol Ernst. ‘I want them to listen,’ said Marsha Robbins, a 53-year-old homemaker who was the presiding juror and the oldest of the panel. … David Webb, a 20-year-old electrician and one of the two youngest jurors on the panel, said he went into deliberations supporting Ernst, ‘but I wanted to give the defendants a chance. We just really didn't find anything that helped them.’” [Associated Press, 8/19/05]
Again, thanks to ATLA for pulling together this Vioxx jury information for our consideration. Come back tomorrow to read Part Two of this Texas Vioxx verdict series.
(Posted by: Tom Lamb)