Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The 13th Juror Strikes Again

"A Texas state appellate court on Wednesday overturned a multimillion-dollar verdict against Merck & Co., ruling that there was insufficient evidence linking the painkiller Vioxx to a heart attack suffered by the plaintiff's spouse. ... In its opinion tossing out the verdict, the Fourth Court of Appeals wrote that the plaintiffs failed to negate, 'with reasonable certainty, Mr. Garza's pre-existing heart condiction as a plausible cause of death.' Under Texas law, the plaintiffs didn't have to prove the exact cause of the heart attack with medical certainty but were required to offer evidence excluding Mr. Garza's pre-existing heart disease as a cause", WSJ, 15 May 2008.

Judges contempt for juries leaves me numb. I thought a civil case's standard of proof was the "preponderance of evidence". "Failed to negate"? These judicial clowns seem to have improperly shifted the burden of production. If there was any credible evidence Vioxx caused Garza's heart attack, the verdict should stand. I further thought appellate courts do not: weigh evidence, consider the veracity of witnesses or overturn findings of fact except under very unusual circumstances. What's going on here? Did Merck improperly influence this court? Stay tuned.

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