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I have dedicated my law practice for the last 25 years to the wrongfully injured and their families. The purpose of this blog is not to provide legal advice. If you need legal help you can contact me at cplacitella@cprlaw.com or visit our website at www.cprlaw.com. Thank You

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Is the weather Cooling For Merck

In the event you have not heard, the following is a news account of Vioxx verdict in California. Everyone watching the trial, including hopeful plaintiffs lawyers, predicted the loss. According to one lawyer who has been attending the trial and keeping me up-to-date in his report yesterday stated "it will be a miracle if the plaintiff wins as even I was not convinced of the Vioxx usage on anything more than an as needed basis."

Keep the faith. There will be many 100° days for Merck in the future.

Chris


Merck Wins Vioxx Trial in L.A.

A jury concludes that the painkiller didn't cause a Northridge man's heart attack.
By Lisa Girion, Times Staff WriterAugust 3, 2006
A Los Angeles County jury cleared Merck & Co. of liability for a Northridge man's heart attack, in the first Vioxx case to go to trial in California.The jury concluded that Stewart Grossberg, a retired construction manager, failed to prove that the blockbuster painkiller was responsible for his heart problems.
ADVERTISEMENTThe verdict, which is Merck's fifth win in eight Vioxx trials, was seen as important for the company because it came in Central Civil West, a courthouse known as "The Bank" for its record of granting huge awards in product liability cases.The plaintiff's loss in "a notoriously favorable jurisdiction [is] going to make the plaintiffs' lawyers lower their sights for settlement and discourage the appetite for trial," said David Berg, founding partner of a Houston law firm and author of "The Trial Lawyer: What It Takes to Win."Still, because Grossberg's case was considered weak, legal experts viewed the verdict as only a qualified victory for the nation's fourth-largest drug maker. Vioxx plaintiffs' lawyers vowed to continue the fight."There's a lot of cases stacked up after this one," said Brian Katabek, a Los Angeles lawyer who was not involved in the trial but who represents plaintiffs on a statewide Vioxx litigation steering committee.Merck faces more than 16,000 suits nationwide, including about 2,500 in California under L.A. County Superior Court Judge Victoria Chaney.Thomas Yoo, a lawyer and spokesman for Merck's trial team, said the verdict vindicated the company's position that it "acted appropriately in providing information to the medical, scientific and regulatory communities.""We firmly believed that Vioxx was not the cause of this heart attack because the data do not support that infrequent, sporadic use of Vioxx contributes to heart attacks," Yoo said. "At the end of the day, the fact remains that the plaintiff was at high risk for a heart attack regardless of whether he was taking Vioxx."Merck may have a winning trial record, but a handful of plaintiffs have been awarded about $300 million. The biggest share — $253 million — went to Carol Ernst, a Texas woman who blamed Vioxx for the death of her triathlete husband from heart problems. Even if Merck's appeals fail in those cases, damage caps are expected to reduce the awards to less than $50 million.Analysts have estimated that the company could pay as much as $50 billion in judgments, settlements and other litigation costs associated with Vioxx. Merck sold more than $9 billion worth of the drug before pulling it from the market in 2004 after a study found that it increased the risk of heart attacks.Merck stock rose 21 cents to $41.03 on Wednesday. The verdict was announced after the markets closed.It followed a Merck win in July when a New Jersey jury blamed other risk factors for 68-year-old Elaine Doherty's heart attack. Wednesday's win should reinforce the company's stated plan to take every case to trial, lawyers said."Coming on the heels of the defense verdict last month in New Jersey, the tide is slowly turning in Merck's favor," said Peter Bicks, a New York corporate defense lawyer. "The company's strategy of making the plaintiffs prove their case in court is paying off."Northridge resident Grossberg blamed Vioxx, which he took for arthritis pain, for a heart attack he suffered in 2001 at age 66 as well as subsequent medical problems. Like other plaintiffs, he alleged that, despite red flags that the drug could cause serious cardiovascular harm, Merck sought expedited government approval to sell Vioxx and designed a study to deceive the medical community about its safety.Lawyers for Grossberg also argued that Merck documents showed that after its study confirmed Vioxx raised users' risk of heart problems, the company failed to warn patients and physicians and instead mounted an aggressive marketing campaign to blunt any concern.Merck's lawyers contended that Grossberg's other medical problems, including atherosclerosis, predated his use of Vioxx, and that he used the drug only intermittently. After a five-week trial, it took the jury less than a day to decide that Vioxx did not cause Grossberg's heart attack. Jurors also concluded that the New Jersey-based drug maker was not negligent and did not conceal information."We didn't feel that a case was ever made that there is a connection between Vioxx and heart attacks," jury foreman Charles Sullenger said. "In the end it simply boiled down to the burden of proof was not met, in our opinion."Legal experts said the verdict bodes poorly for plaintiffs like Grossberg who used Vioxx sporadically or for a short time, and were in less-than-perfect health when they had a heart attack.But, they said, the verdict should not hurt the cases of once-fit plaintiffs who can demonstrate longer use of the drug. The company has not said how many of the suits involve long-term use.Another Vioxx trial got underway this week in New Orleans in a suit brought by a 62-year-old former FBI agent

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