TRIAL ATTORNEY SAYS MERCK IS “STEP CLOSER TO ACCOUNTABILITY” AS VIOXX® TRIAL CONTINUES
Attorney Mark Lanier:
“Merck can’t turn a loss into a win just by saying it’s so”
Atlantic City – A jury on Friday in New Jersey Superior Court imposed a serious and strong verdict against Merck & Co, finding that the manufacturer of VIOXX® withheld information and made misrepresentations to doctors and to the public about the heart attack risks associated with the drug.
The jury unanimously confirmed four counts of fraud in the marketing of VIOXX® making Merck liable for millions of dollars in damages, attorney fees and expenses. Also, the jury unanimously found that Merck failed to adequately warn patient Mike Humeston about the dangers posed by Vioxx. In doing so, jurors reversed a 2005 finding on behalf of Merck against the Humeston family.
Mark Lanier, lead attorney for the victims of VIOXX® says, “Since the verdict, spinmeisters on behalf of Merck have attempted to characterize this significant defeat as somehow a victory.” Merck received one positive finding out of six from jurors who found that Merck provided adequate warning before the fatal heart attack of Brian Hermans. According to Lanier, “the practical impact of that finding is minimal. It means that Brian’s family can’t pursue damages that would have been capped at $350,000. While that represents a substantial amount of money, it is dwarfed by the financial liability Merck faces for defrauding the public and the medical community.”
In phase two of the current trial, jurors will determine whether VIOXX® was a primary cause of Mr. Humeston’s heart attack. Jurors will also determine damages for both plaintiffs under New Jersey’s consumer fraud laws.
Merck is expected to appeal the verdicts in both the Hermans and Humeston cases, rather than pay millions of dollars in damages and fees. Lanier and The Lanier Law Firm have faced Merck on behalf of five separate plaintiffs. Merck is appealing the result in each case.
VIOXX® was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in May 1999 for the relief of osteoarthritis and menstrual pain, and later for treatment of the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Merck pulled the drug from pharmacy shelves in September 2004 after a study linked it to an increased risk of heart attacks. Merck, the No. 4 drug maker in the country, now faces nearly 27,000 suits over the drug.
Mr. Lanier won the first-ever VIOXX® trial in the summer of 2005, when an Angleton, Texas, jury awarded his client $253.5 million. In that case, jurors found Merck liable in the 2001 death of Robert Ernst, a physically fit triathlete who died after taking the drug for eight months.
For more information, contact Kevin Roberts at 212-421-2800 or Mike Androvett at 800-559-4534 or [email protected].