My Thoughts On the Vioxx Verdict

The size of the first Vioxx verdict ($259 Million) against Merck is an indication that juries in other cases will be angry at Merck when they hear the evidence of the company’s wrongdoing. The core evidence presented in the Ernst case is the same evidence that will be presented in other cases. While each case will have medical facts that vary for each plaintiff, the acts of wrongdoing by the company will be similar in each case. The Ernst verdict will likely be reduced significantly by the Judge under the provisions of some of the Texas tort reform laws that were passed to protect big companies but the significance of the large award by the jury indicates that Merck will have serious problems defending the 4,000 lawsuits that have already been filed and the tens of thousands of lawsuits that will be filed in the next few years.
Merck boldly claims that it will fight each case and will not settle. To date there have been no reported settlements by Merck of any cases. However, if the lawsuits drive the stock price of the company down far enough and it it is advantageous to the company’s shareholders the company has a duty to the shareholders to start settling cases.
The next trial set is in New Jersey in September and the first federal trial in the consolidated multidistrict litigation is in November in New Orleans. This multidistrict litigation is the consolidation of all of the cases pending in all the federal courts throughout the country which have been consolidated in New Orleans before Judge Eldon Fallon.
Additional evidence is being discovered every week in the ongoing depositions in the pending cases and it is likely that more evidence of wrongdoing by Merck will be uncovered that can be used in later trials. For example, recent evidence has been discovered that Merck’s early studies showed an increase in heart attacks after only a few weeks of Vioxx use. Merck had said when Vioxx was pulled off the market that the evidence of increased heart attacks only were shown after 18 months of Vioxx usage. That statement has now been shown to be untrue. David Graham, a scientist at the FDA, has estimated that Vioxx has killed over 60,000 people. That is more people than were killed in the Vietnam war. The Vioxx debacle is a public health catastrophe and apparently the only ones actively investigating or prosecuting Merck are the private trial lawyers and their brave clients.