As expected, the $32 million award granted to Lionel Garza's family by a Texas jury for his fatal heart attack, allegedly caused by Vioxx, has been slashed under state law, down to $7.75 million. The reduction comports with Texas's statutory requirement that punitive damages -- the bulk of the initial award -- cannot exceed 2x economic damages, plus $750,000 over noneconomic damages. In this case, Garza was retired and suffered no economic damages; the jury gave his family a $7 million noneconomic award, and the $750,000 is on top of that.
A couple of observations: first, as Ted pointed out at length in analysing the initial verdict, this is a case in which liability should never have been found. Garza's family offered no hard evidence that he had EVER taken Vioxx, and only alleged that he had taken the drug for less than a month. In addition, he was 71 years old, with high cholesterol, overweight, a smoker, had previously suffered a heart attack, and had undergone a quadruple bypass. Wow. (See our full, extensive prior coverage here.)
The second observation is how punitive damage caps without noneconomic damage caps can be skirted by runaway juries. $7 million in noneconomic damages. Again, wow.
Merck is appealing alleging that one of the jurors had a financial relationship with the widow Garza.