Judge Ben Hardin presiding over the 23rd District Court in Bay City, Texas has decided to reject Merck’s plea that the trial in Carol Ernst’s case not proceed forward since Merck is unlikely to get a fair trial. Kristen Hays and Theresa Agovino of AP are reporting that the Judge will let jury selection process go forward though he will carefully examine the jury questionnaires to make sure that the trial process is fair. (Previous article: Merck seeks delay in Vioxx trial)
It will be the first Vioxx lawsuit to go to trial since Merck recalled Vioxx in September 2004 after reports of as many as 140,000 personal injuries and 50,000 deaths. It is expected that there could be as many as 100,000 lawsuits with an estimated $38 billion liability for Merck. It is not yet known how many non-US based Vioxx victims will sue Merck but this week a group of 50 French victims has come forward to file their lawsuit against Merck using American attorneys.
Merck had asked for a delay on the grounds that the lawsuit by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott accusing the company of selling a harmful drug and committing fraud on the state has denied them a chance for a fair trial in Texas. A conservative think tank, Washington Legal Foundation, that typcailly works on behalf of large companies has tried to cause a similar delay in the Cheryl Rogers case. In other words, Merck is hoping that by using delaying tactics and refusal to settle any cases out of court, it can discourage other victims to press their cases.
It is not clear if there is an alliance between the Texas Attorney General and Vioxx attorneys in the state as Merck has charged but it is clear that law firms all over United States consider Vioxx litigation as the “mother of all product liability trials.”