February, March, And April 2006: Vioxx Trials In New Orleans Before Judge Fallon
As has been known since early December 2005, a re-trial of the Irvin / Plunkett v. Merck lawsuit will start on February 6, 2006 with Judge Eldon Fallon presiding. This trial will take place in New Orleans, home of the federal court Vioxx MDL litigation. The initial trial of the Irvin / Plunkett Vioxx case, which ended in a mistrial, was held in Houston due to circumstances related to Hurricane Katrina.
In mid-January 2006, it was announced that Judge Fallon has scheduled two more Vioxx cases for trial, one starting on March 13, 2006, and a second case to start sometime in April 2006. Both of these Vioxx trials will be in New Orleans, also.
Each of these first three Vioxx federal court trials involve different Vioxx-use periods. Richard Irvin used Vioxx for only a short term prior to his death. Ellis Diaz, the plaintiff in the March 2006 Vioxx trial in New Orleans, is considered to be a medium-term user of Vioxx. And the April 2006 case involves Charles Borowicz and long-term use of Vioxx -- presumably more than 18 months -- according to news reports published in January 2006.
Period of Vioxx use is a critical issue in the Vioxx litigation because Merck & Co. withdrew Vioxx from the market in September 2004 when a study showed that Vioxx could double one's risk of having a heart attack or a stroke if taken for 18 months or longer. Since the Vioxx recall, Merck and its lawyers have maintained that there are no cardiovascular risks for people with periods of Vioxx use less than 18 months.
Despite this "implied" concession that 18 months of Vioxx use might cause a heart attack or a stroke, however, Merck has consistently asserted that it will defend itself against each Vioxx lawsuit (apparently regardless of the Vioxx-use period), and settle none.
(Posted by: Tom Lamb)