After a really bad couple of months for plaintiffs in which the defense teams for Merck had a run of resounding wins in the Vioxx litigation ( and according to all observers they really drilled the plaintiff attorneys in both cases ) a Texas state court judge has handed a win of sorts to plaintiffs in a closely watched decision on the Leonel Garza case down in Rio Grande City, TX.
Essentially the judge reduced the prior verdict of $32 million down to $7.75 million, which was a win for Merck in getting it reduced to a reasonable level of damages, but not at all what Merck was seeking. Merck had discovered that one of the jurors in the case had a prior financial relationship with the widow of Mr. Garza through a long standing lending practice that those of us who live in and around border areas or large Hispanic communities are familiar with. If you care to read more about it do a Google search or check the Wall Street Journal archives as they did an excellent job of reporting how Mr. Garza and his widow were essentially a small time, informal lender of funds to migrants and others who couldn't get loans, or didn't want to get loans through traditional lenders.
Merck and their defense team sought to use this previously undisclosed evidence to over turn the entire verdict, but the judge in this case refused to do so, and instead gave the family a win with this reduced amount, which is still a substantial win for the plaintiffs. Merck has already said, through their Texas counsel Attorney Travis Sales of Baker and Botts that they will file for a new trial, so this won't be the last we hear of this case.
I do encourage you to check out the NY Times and WSJ archives for more on this particular case.