A $7.75 million jury award over the Merck & Co. drug Vioxx will stand after a judge let the company’s request for a new trial expire.

Merck made the request after learning that shortly before the trial, one of the jurors took a cash loan from the widow of Leonel Garza, who died in 2001 at age 71 after taking Vioxx.

State District Judge Alex Gabert did not act on Merck’s bid for a new trial within the 75-day time limit, his clerk confirmed Thursday, which effectively denies the request. The time limit expired Monday.

A spokesman for Merck’s outside legal counsel said there would be an appeal.

The jury last year awarded $32 million to Garza’s family. The verdict was reduced by state caps on noneconomic damages.

Merck argued during the trial that Garza had a 23-year history of heart disease beginning with a quadruple bypass in 1989 and had taken Vioxx only 17 days.

But Garza’s attorneys said Garza had just been told his veins had been cleared and that a stress test showed less than a 2 percent risk of heart attack within a year.

They touted the verdict as the first case in the country where a jury found short-term usage of Vioxx to be causative in heart attacks.

Plaintiff attorney Luis Cardenas in December called Merck’s motion for retrial “pretty standard.” He did not immediately return a call Thursday.



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