[Cross-posted at Volokh.com]
An excellent editorial in the Post, which includes this gem:
Unfortunately for Merck, scientific facts didn't play much of a role in the first Vioxx trial, which ended on Aug. 19. The Texas jury in that case awarded $253.4 million to the widow of a man who died of a heart attack triggered by arrhythmia, which is not a condition Vioxx has been proven to cause. The jury, declaring that it wished to "send a message" to Merck, decided to make an enormous symbolic award anyway. Besides, said one juror afterward, the medical evidence was confusing: "We didn't know what the heck they were talking about."
Unfortunately, no matter how many quotes like this one reads, nor no matter how obvious it is that complicated scientific evidence presented orally in an adversarial system will inevitably be beyond the comprehension of many lay jurors, it won't convince many academics that perhaps jury trials are not a good way to resolve medical causation issues (the breast implant litigation being a fine example). For a well-written, but ultimately unpersuasive apologia for juries in this context, see this article by Vidmar and Diamond. For that matter, despite the protests from skeptics such as myself, many academic lawyers seem intent on actually expanding the power of juries to wreak havoc with the pharmaceutical industry.