Will Judge Chaney Schedule A Single Plaintiff Case Or Multiple Plaintiffs Case?
The first Vioxx trial in California is scheduled to start on June 21, 2006, but it is still unknown whether the jury sitting for that case will be hearing about a single individual or several individuals who suffered a heart attack after taking Vioxx.
As of March 20, 2006, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Victoria Chaney is presiding over 1,882 Vioxx lawsuits that have been filed in California against Merck & Co. Inc. The California Vioxx lawsuits are among the more than 9,650 Vioxx lawsuits filed since September 2004, when Merck voluntarily removed Vioxx from the market.
Judge Chaney recently identified 36 potential cases that could be the subject of the first California Vioxx trial. From this list of 36 cases we know that the jury will be hearing about an alleged Vioxx-induced myocardial infarction, or heart attack. What remains uncertain is whether the jury sitting for the June 21 California trial will be hearing about a heart attack suffered by a single patient after taking Vioxx, or the cases of two or more people who allege that Vioxx caused their heart attack. See In re Vioxx Coordinated Cases, No. JCCP 4247 (Los Angeles Co., Calif., Super. Ct.).
According to an article in the March 27, 2006 edition of The National Law Journal, plaintiffs lawyers have encouraged Judge Chaney to schedule two or more Vioxx cases for the June 21, 2006 trial because the liability facts, at least, of these Vioxx-induced heart attack cases are very similar. Further, the article reports that many of the same experts will be involved in these California Vioxx cases
The March 2006 National Law Journal article also reports the position of Merck on the issue of single plaintiff versus multiple plaintiffs. Ralph Campillo, reported to be the lead defense attorney for Merck as regards the California state court Vioxx cases, told a National Law Journal reporter that Merck prefers the single plaintiff case approach.
"[Mr. Campillo] said that specific facts of the case -- such as the plaintiff's medical history, the physician's knowledge of the harmful effects of Vioxx and the time frame in which each patient took the drug -- could confuse the jury."
Mr. Campillo is a partner in the Los Angeles office of Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold.
Meanwhile, according to this National Law Journal article, Judge Chaney is still weighing her options:
"I want to know more about the cases we're going to try, their similarities and dissimilarities," she told a packed courtroom of about 25 lawyers. "I need to know if it's best to do single or multiple."
We will keep you posted on developments in the California state court Vioxx litigation.
(Posted by: Tom Lamb)