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    Thursday, August 04, 2005

    A Need for Reform: According to the New York Times the Vioxx trial is getting emotional:

    "The night Bob died, we lost my mom too," Ms. Sherrill told the Texas jury of seven men and five women. "She's very depressed."

    Ms. Sherrill cried repeatedly during her testimony, which lasted about an hour. Some people in the courtroom audience also cried, and the jury appeared to be paying close attention to her.

    ...Ms. Sherrill said that her mother had endured a difficult life before meeting Mr. Ernst in 1997. After divorcing her first husband about 16 years before, Ms. Ernst raised her four children as a single mother, Ms. Sherrill said. During that period, Ms. Ernst rarely dated, devoting her life to her children, and later earning a college degree.

    But when she met Mr. Ernst on a date arranged by another of her daughters, they fell in love almost immediately, Ms. Sherrill said. They married three years later. "She was happy, very happy," Ms. Sherrill said.

    "Had you ever seen her this happy your entire life?" asked Lisa Blue, a lawyer for plaintiffs.

    "No," Ms. Sherrill said. "They were together all the time, doing stuff all the time."

    She added, "He embraced our family and we embraced him," and then began to cry. Mr. Ernst's death devastated Ms. Ernst and she remains severely depressed, Ms. Sherrill said. "It's just hard. Every day is hard."

    When Ms. Blue asked, "How do you think the death of Bob has changed your mother?" Ms. Sherrill sobbed for several seconds.

    Isn't this the part where the attorney for the other side pipes up and objects that this testimony isn't relevant to the case? Surely, the family would be just as devastated by their step-father/husband's death regardless of the cause - wouldn't they? Yes, this case is about monetary compensation, so the suffering of the survivors counts, but shouldn't it be kept separately from the finding of guilt? How about a simple judicial reform that requires a trial to focus on the evidence of whether or not someone is guilty of causing the harm, making the decision of guilty or not guilty, then saving the emotional witnessing for the sentencing?

    If you think this is something that only big corporations need to worry about, think again. Anyone could find themselves the only survivor of an auto accident that wasn't their fault and end up in court facing the same sort of testimony. Call me naive, but I always thought our courts at looked at the facts, not the emotional impact, of a case.

    P.S. Medically speaking, this case is short on evidence that Vioxx killed the man:

    Mr. Ernst's death certificate lists an arrhythmia as his cause of death. Lawyers for Merck say that Vioxx has never been shown to cause arrhythmias, and so Vioxx cannot have caused Mr. Ernst's death.

    But W. Mark Lanier , a lawyer for Mr. Ernst's family, has told the jury that a blood clot caused by Vioxx led to the arrhythmia that killed Mr. Ernst. Even though the autopsy showed no evidence of a blood clot, several witnesses for plaintiffs, including Dr. Maria M. Araneta, the coroner who conducted the autopsy, have backed Mr. Lanier's theory and said that it was more likely than not that Vioxx caused Mr. Ernst's death.


    posted by sydney on 8/04/2005 01:53:00 PM 0 comments


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