Jury Finds for Merck: Will its Critics Notice?

The NJ jury hearing the latest Vioxx case found Merck & Co. not liable for the death of Frederick “Mike” Humeston after seven and a half hours of deliberation. The ruling contrasted with an earlier Texas jury’s determination that Merck was liable for the death of Robert Ernst.

Following the Ernst verdict, a hue and cry arose against the jury system, with some claiming, for instance, that “this incident . . . raises serious questions as to the competence of lay jurors to resolve technical issues.” Now that we’ve another anecdote in hand, is it possible that these earlier critics owe the American jury system an apology?

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5 Responses

  1. KipEsquire says:

    You know what they say about broken clocks…

  2. Mike says:

    Juries only get it “right” when they convict a criminal defendant and absolve a civil defendant of liability. You see… only guilty people are charged with crimes, and only innocent corporations are ever sued. I guess you missed that memo.

  3. Stuart says:

    Dave, what is wrong with your argument is that having two such vastly different answers to similar questions reinforces the “luck of the draw” argument.

  4. Dave says:

    Stuart, but the juries weren’t answering two similar questions any more than two different juries considering two different murders. The key factual question, causation, depended (I would suppose) on the plaintiffs’ unique characteristics.

  5. Nate Oman says:

    Dave: Isn’t the real question comparative. The fact that a jury sometimes gets it right or sometimes gets it wrong is neither here nor there as to whether juries are a good idea. The question is how do they do against the alternatives (presumably judges) and what benefits do they have that could justify their error costs vis-a-vis other alternatives?

    Put in concrete terms, what evidence is there that the U.S. civil justice system is superior to the U.K. civil justice system as a result of our retention of trial by jury in civil cases?