A New Jersey judge has upheld a $13.5 million verdict against drugmaker Merck & Co. in a Vioxx case. The August 7th ruling by Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee denied Merck’s request for a new trial or a reduction in the verdict, which included punitive damages of $9 million.

Judge Higbee also awarded the couple $2 million in attorneys’ fees and costs and an additional $2,552 per day in interest. John and Irma McDarby had sued Merck in 2005 after John McDarby, who used Vioxx for four years, suffered a heart attack.

The jury awarded the couple $4.5 million in compensatory damages and $9 million in punitive damages. In her order, Judge Higbee said she was entering a $15.7 million judgment for the couple in the court’s docket. Interest on that amount starts to run on August 13th.

This ruling is a stinging defeat for Merck. This is the second judge – one federal and one state – who have found that Merck’s conduct rises to a level that justifies punitive damages.


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