To establish a design defect, a plaintiff must prove that a safer alternative design exists that would substantially reduce the risk of injury and be economically and technologically feasible. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 82.005(a) (2005).
The decedent, age 71 with a history of heart problems, visited his cardiologist complaining of left arm pain and other symptoms. His doctor gave him a one-week sample supply of Vioxx for pain. The doctor's partner later gave him a 30-day supply. The decedent died of a heart attack 17 days later. The plaintiffs – survivors of the decedent - relied on clinical trials to establish causation and sued Merck & Co., Inc., the defendant, on design defect and marketing defect strict liability claims based upon allegations that Merck's prescription drug Vioxx caused the decedent’s death. The verdict of the jury favors the plaintiffs; the defendant has filed an appeal, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence on causation.
Can a general causation between the decedent’s intake of Vioxx and his subsequent death be established?
The court held that there was legally sufficient evidence in the results of the clinical trials to support a finding of general causation. The survivors also established specific causation, based on an autopsy of the decedent as compared with recent medical tests. The court held that the second doctor's testimony was sufficient to establish that a proper warning would have changed his decision to prescribe. The court held, however, that a juror's undisclosed financial relationship with the decedent's wife constituted juror misconduct, requiring reversal of the jury's verdict.