AP Reports At Least 7,875 Vioxx Lawsuits Filed By Thanksgiving Day 2005
The first Vioxx federal trial, Irvin / Plunkett v. Merck, is scheduled to start today, November 29, 2005, in Houston, Texas. This Vioxx case involves the late Richard "Dicky" Irvin Jr., a 53-year-old seafood distribution manager from St. Augustine, Florida, who had a fatal heart attack in May 2001 after taking Vioxx for about a month. Irvin's widow, Evelyn Irvin Plunkett, is the plaintiff in this wrongful death Vioxx case, which is officially captioned Plunkett v. Merck, No. 05cv4046 (E.D. La., moved to S.D. Texas due to Hurricane Katrina). U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon will preside over the Irvin / Plunkett trial.
Significantly, Judge Fallon ruled November 16, 2005 that lawyers for Mr. Irvin's widow may present evidence at the trial showing short-term Vioxx use can trigger heart attacks and strokes. In so ruling, Judge Fallon rejected Merck's contention that there is no reliable evidence of cardiac risks when Vioxx is taken for shorter periods. As such, Judge Fallon also denied Merck's motion to dismiss the Irvin / Plunkett case for insufficient evidence regarding medical causation.
Moreover, Judge Fallon's ruling about allowing evidence of short-term Vioxx use causing heart attacks effectively blocked Merck's effort to have the Court dismiss all federal Vioxx lawsuits involving short-term Vioxx use.
The Associated Press ("AP") reported on November 27, 2005 that at least 7,875 Vioxx lawsuits, total, had been filed against Merck as of Thanksgiving day. In addition, according to the AP report, Merck had extended the one-year statute of limitations' deadline on about 3,000 more cases by means of so-called "tolling agreements" with plaintiffs' lawyers.
At present, Judge Fallon is overseeing at least 2,900 federal Vioxx personal injury and wrongful death cases in the federal court Vioxx MDL. After the Irvin / Plunkett Vioxx trial, Judge Fallon has scheduled three more federal Vioxx trials for Spring 2006. Judge Fallon, according to the November 27 AP report, "then plans to meet with lawyers on both sides to discuss a global settlement for all federal Vioxx litigation."
Meanwhile, in the New Jersey state court system, Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee is overseeing more then 4,225 Vioxx cases. Judge Higbee has said that after presiding over Humeston v. Merck, a case involving short-term Vioxx use, she wants the next several trials to involve a heart attack or stroke after Vioxx use for at least 18 months.
Lastly, Merck's November 2005 victory in Humeston v. Merck, the first New Jersey state court trial, has been appealed. According to the AP report, on or about November 23, 2005 lawyers for plaintiff Frederick "Mike" Humeston, who alleged his September 2001 heart attack was caused by short-term use of Vioxx, filed a motion for a new trial.
(Posted by: Tom Lamb)