Merck to seek delay in first Vioxx case
SAGAPONACK, N.Y. (AP) — Merck (MRK)
wants to delay the first wrongful death trial over its pain reliever
Vioxx, arguing that it cannot receive a fair trial if the Texas case
begins next week as scheduled.
The company wants the trial postponed for at
least 60 days, citing recent publicity about the drug. Merck
withdrew the drug in September when research showed that patients
who took it for 18 months or longer more than doubled their risk for
heart attack and stroke. Since then, more than 2,400 Vioxx lawsuits
have been filed nationwide. (Related: Merck to face first Vioxx trial before Texas jury next
A hearing on Merck's motion was slated for
Tuesday in Wharton, Texas. Mark Lanier, a Houston attorney for a
woman suing Merck over her husband's 2001 death, said he will oppose
In the motion, which was filed Friday, Merck
said a lawsuit brought Thursday by Texas Attorney General Greg
Abbott seeking $250 million in damages for Vioxx purchases has
"effectively eliminated any possibility Merck can receive a fair
trial beginning July 11."
It also noted that a law firm which helped the
attorney general's office on the lawsuit represents at least six
plaintiffs suing the company.
"The timing of the (state) lawsuit is hardly a
coincidence," according to Merck's motion.
The filing also said a story in the "national
media" which cited a privileged attorney-client communication could
prejudice a jury against it. The Associated Press reported June 22
that Merck scientists had contacted company attorneys in 2000 about
reformulating Vioxx over concerns it could cause negative
cardiovascular side effects. USA TODAY had a report on the case June
Lanier said Monday that Merck signed an
agreement with him in May not to postpone the trial for any reason
other than the health of the lead attorneys.
He also said he would oppose the motion for a
delay because the story about the Texas attorney general's lawsuit
did not receive prominent coverage in the Houston Chronicle — the
region's major newspaper — and that the newspaper in Brazoria County
did not publish the AP article. The suit is expected to be heard in
that county, south of Houston.
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