Merck & Co., Inc. v. Garza (Tex. 2011)(Opinion by Justice Hecht)

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Also see: Texas Causes of Action  |  2011 Texas Supreme Court Opinions | 2011 Tex Sup Ct Per Curiams   
Merck & Co., Inc. v. Garza,
No. 09-0073 (Tex. Aug. 26, 2011)(Opinion by Justice Nathan Hecht)  
MERCK & CO., INC. v. FELICIA GARZA, ET AL.; from Starr County; 4th district (04-07-00234-CV, 277 SW3d 430, 12-10-08)  
The Court reverses the court of appeals' judgment and renders judgment.
Justice Hecht delivered the opinion of the Court. [pdf]
(Justice Willett and Justice Guzman not sitting)

Respondents contend that Vioxx, a prescription drug, caused their decedent’s death.  In Merrell  Dow  
Pharmaceuticals,  Inc.  v.  Havner, 953 S.W.2d 706 (Tex. 1997) we  set  requirements  for  determining  
whether epidemiological evidence is scientifically reliable to prove causation. The parties here dispute what
those requirements are, whether they apply in this case, and whether they were satisfied.  We hold
that Havner’s requirements apply and were not met, and that the evidence was therefore legally insufficient to
prove causation.  Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the court of appeals and render judgment that
respondents take nothing.

While we have held that epidemiological evidence used to prove general causation must meet
Havner’s requirements for scientific reliability, we return briefly to the Garzas’ argument that the
totality of the evidence in this case shows general causation.  They point to evidence that Merck
largely excluded patients with a history of cardiovascular disease from its studies.  They argue that
the trials suffer from selection bias in that they excluded a subset of people who were at an elevated
risk of suffering a Vioxx-induced heart attack.  But several of the studies did include patients who
had  some  history of  cardiovascular disease,  and in  any event, the  absence  of  evidence  cannot
substitute for evidence.  The Garzas argue that the risk doubling for Garza required by Havner can
be  extrapolated  from  studies  finding a  doubling  of  the  risk  at  much  higher  doses  and  longer
durations.  But the Garzas cannot point to any scientific basis for such an extrapolation.
The totality of the evidence cannot prove general causation if it does not meet the standards
for scientific reliability established by Havner.  A plaintiff cannot prove causation by presenting
different types of unreliable evidence.  Thus, we are constrained to hold that the Garzas did not
present reliable evidence of general causation and are therefore not entitled to recover against Merck

Accordingly, the judgment of the court of appeals is reversed and judgment rendered that the
Garzas take nothing

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