In an announcement today Judge Eldon Fallon overturned a recent jury verdict of $50,000,000 against Merck saying that "no reasonable jury could have found that Gerald Barrett was entitled to $50 million in compensatory damages."
The decision is a victory for Merck in that it requires a new trial on damages, with the distinct possibility that the figure will be significantly less then the previous $50 million.
The initial verdict had shocked both defense and plaintiff experts on both sides of the case, as well as observers, as Judge Fallon had made clear that damages should be limited to past and future medical bills, pain and suffering and other intangible elements as Mr. Barrett was retired and that past and future earnings couldn't be calculated into a damage award.
With this retrial, punitive damages, which were initially awarded at $1 million, are also back on the table, so it's still uncertain how this will play out. One thing is for certain, and that is this decision is a shrewd move by a very competent judge who is most likely trying to create a baseline dollar figure for this type of case, so that when settlement negotiations commence it is a number that is palatable to Merck. Clearly, a damage award of $3 million is easier to process then $50 million and Judge Feldon knows it. You can see the wheels working and as each type of case is tried, moved to it's ultimate conclusion and established as to what type of damages are expected, the settlement value of each class of damages will become clear.