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Vioxx Litigation

A CNN study has revealed that approximately one-third of drugs approved by the FDA between 2001 and 2010 were ultimately discovered to have safety issues. Out of 222 products, 71 required FDA action in response to safety events. In 61 cases, the companies had neglected to provide safety warnings calling attention to life-threatening side effects.

In many cases, companies withhold information from the FDA about their products while seeking approval, and the public pays the price. Merck, the maker of Vioxx, is a prime example of this deception.

The attorneys at The Lanier Law Firm stand up to large pharmaceutical companies on behalf of individuals who were harmed after trusting the drug companies to provide a safe and effective product. Our history of litigation against Merck, the makers of Vioxx, is a prime example of our law firm’s unrelenting advocacy on behalf of our clients.

What is Vioxx?

According to the FDA, Vioxx is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) in the same family of drugs as ibuprofen and naproxen. It was available by prescription for the relief of arthritis pain, acute pain and painful menstrual cycles. Vioxx was recalled on September 30, 2004, and is no longer prescribed.

Reuters reported in 2008 that a long-term study in 2005 found that taking Vioxx doubled the risk of both heart attacks and strokes. While this study indicated the risk after using the product for 18 months, a Canadian study indicated these risks increased as early as two weeks after initiating use of the product.

Merck’s Pattern of Fraud and Negligence

Our law firm has won significant verdicts against Merck after the company swore up front that it would fight every case in court. While litigating these cases, we were able to prove that Merck engaged in the following misconduct for the benefit of its own profits at the peril of vulnerable consumers:

  • Merck deceived doctors about the safety of its products.
  • The company used threats and intimidation against doctors who raised concerns about the product’s safety.
  • Merck misrepresented its product’s safety to the FDA.
  • The company marketed the product to consumers without informing them of the associated risks.
  • Merck abused the court system to avoid compensating victims even after a court ruled it had committed fraud.


The Lanier Law Firm has been a pioneer in litigation against Merck.

2005 Texas Verdict

In the first-ever Vioxx lawsuit, The Lanier Law Firm proved that Carol Ernst’s husband Robert C. Ernst, a marathon runner, had died of a heart attack due to his eight-month use of Vioxx. The jury awarded a $253 million verdict, which included $229 million in punitive damages. The total award was reduced to $26.1 million due to Texas damage caps.

The jury award was based on a finding that the company had acted recklessly in selling Vioxx to the public despite its knowledge of cardiovascular health risks.

2007 Settlement

Despite its previous refusal to settle cases, The Lanier Law Firm “played a significant role leading up to the $4.85 billion nationwide settlement” announced by Merck. The settlement was expected to resolve at least 85 percent of the lawsuits pending at that time. 

Mark Lanier responded to the announcement enthusiastically: “It was the right thing to do, and we’re grateful that the people at Merck recognized that it was the right thing to do.” The Lanier Law Firm received the final payments from Merck on behalf of its clients in March 2010.

2010 New Jersey Verdict

In a case in which Mark Lanier was lead attorney, a jury found Merck liable for four counts of fraud, which it had committed against 44-year-old Brian Hermans, who suffered a fatal heart attack after using Vioxx for 19 months, and Mike Humeston. The jury also unanimously found Merck negligent in the death of Mike Humeston for failure to warn him about the cardiovascular risks associated with Vioxx. 

In this case, the former head of the Cleveland Clinic testified that Merck misled the FDA, the medical community and consumers about the harmful effects of its product. 

Dr. James Fries, a professor at Stanford, testified that a Merck executive had threatened “consequences for Stanford” if one of Fries’ employees continued to publicly criticize the product. Dr. Fries further testified that Merck had pressured numerous critics who raised concerns about the safety of Vioxx.

The Lanier Law Firm also proved that early television commercials about Vioxx failed to disclose the product’s cardiovascular risks.

2011 New Jersey Verdict

New Jersey jurors awarded 76-year-old John McDarby $9 million in punitive damages, in addition to a previous award of $4.5 million in compensatory damages, after finding that Merck not only failed to warn consumers about the dangers of Vioxx, but as The Lanier Law Firm’s founder Mark Lanier contended, “built a wall of deception and lies.” 

In the case, the court also found that Merck had committed fraud and awarded an additional $4,013.36 and $45 to a second victim for the cost of prescriptions, plus $4 million in attorney fees. In the ruling, it was noted that the company spent half a million dollars defending these cases and has set aside an additional $850 million, even though it would have cost much less to settle in many cases.

Questions to Ask When Selecting a Pharmaceutical Liability Attorney

The Lanier Law Firm’s success in the Vioxx litigation is a direct result of our philosophy of legal care, which is sound, serious representation for every client. Every client is important to us. When selecting an attorney to represent you in a pharmaceutical liability case, you need a legal team that is both dedicated and qualified.

Selecting a well-qualified attorney is one of the most important factors in the outcome of your case. Even if your case seems like a slam dunk, this is not enough to defeat the rich drug companies. You need a legal team that is knowledgeable and skilled in negotiation and litigation. Below are important questions to ask any law firm before you select an attorney.

gavel and justice scale

How much experience do you have with pharmaceutical liability litigation?

Pharmaceutical litigation is complex. Drug companies are among the largest and richest corporations in the world, and their legal teams are among the highest-paid lawyers in the industry. They have vast resources at their disposal, and they resort to nearly any tactic to escape liability. 

During the 32 years since our firm’s establishment, The Lanier Law Firm has built a national reputation in the pharmaceutical industry for our litigation skills. We are pioneers in pharmaceutical litigation and have won multiple landmark cases.

Do you handle cases nationwide?

Lawyers that handle cases nationwide are better equipped to handle the demands of pharmaceutical liability cases. The Lanier Law Firm has offices in New York, Texas and California, and we accept cases nationwide.

Do you typically settle cases or go to court?

Law firms that settle all or nearly all of their cases may persuade you to accept settlements that are lower than a fair amount because they are afraid to litigate in court. Law firms that take most of their cases to court may not have a reputation for being tough in court. 

The correct answer to this question is that it is usually in the best interests of all parties to agree to a fair settlement, but it is better to go to court than to accept a settlement that is less than fair. At The Lanier Law Firm, we are able to settle many of our cases because our adversaries know our reputation, and they do not want to face us in court.

However, if a company refuses to offer a fair settlement, we are unafraid to litigate in court. Our law firm frequently makes headlines because of our success in the courtroom.

Do you have a successful track record?

This may be the most important question you can ask a prospective attorney. A law firm’s history of results is one of the most important indicators of the results you can expect in your case.

We are proud of the results we have achieved for our clients. Below are just a few examples of our success in the hundreds of cases we have successfully tried:

  • $9 billion verdict against Takeda & Lilly for cancer risk for the diabetes drug Actos
  • $57 million national settlement for Yaz birth control victims
  • $1.85 billion opioid settlement for the state of Texas
  • $56 million verdict against Biomet over defective hip implants

How are defective drug cases proven?

Like other personal injury cases, a plaintiff must prove that negligence by the drug company resulted in an injury. The primary forms of negligence by drug companies include the following:

  • Failure to warn the public about health risks the company knew or should have known about
  • Marketing and selling a product that is inherently harmful
  • Quality control issues, such as products being packaged incorrectly or sold beyond their
    expiration dates

Who is liable in cases involving defective drugs?

In addition to drugmakers, companies involved in the marketing or distribution of the products could be liable. This includes the following:

  • Distributors
  • Marketing companies
  • Retailers
  • Health care providers

How much is my pharmaceutical liability case worth?

Compensation will depend on the extent of the damage and the extent of the pharmaceutical company’s fault. Compensation can be substantial in these cases, especially in cases involving companies that intentionally failed to warn the public of the known dangers of their products, as was evident in the Vioxx cases.

The types of compensation that may be available include the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Reimbursement of your prescription costs
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Burial and funeral expenses in cases of wrongful death
  • Punitive damages

How much time do I have to file a pharmaceutical liability case?

The statute of limitations varies by jurisdiction, but the average time frame is one to three years from the date of your injury or the date you discovered or should have discovered your injury. Even if the statute of limitations for your case seems to provide ample time, it is important to contact an attorney right away to allow time to investigate and build a strong case.

Contact The Lanier Law Firm Today So We Can Fight for You

As a consumer, you have the right to be fully informed about products you rely on to treat your medical conditions. Merck harmed thousands of patients because it cared more about its profits than patient safety. Large pharmaceutical companies think they can get away with it because they can afford expensive legal teams. 

Our legal team has the resources and the prowess to overcome their tactics and hold them accountable. Financial accountability is the only way these companies will be motivated to stop harming the public. 

If you or your loved one has been harmed by a pharmaceutical company, our attorneys have the experience and skills to recover the compensation you deserve. Don’t let the statute of limitations run out. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

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