Latest Vioxx Verdict a $32 Million Blow to Merck

The latest verdict in the ongoing slew of Vioxx cases being heard across the United States -- 11,500 and counting -- late last week drew a $32 million judgment against Merck, the second huge award given to a plaintiff by a Texas court. Under Texas laws, however, the family of Leonel Garza will receive significantly less -- close to $8 million -- but never enough to compensate for the loss of a life.

Yet, despite the significant losses, Merck attorneys say they remain pleased by the 50-50 split in court rulings, because, some experts say, winning a single case proves that juries can determine which claims are valid or not. It's also a smart strategy, considering the mega-drugmaker wants to limit their financial damage, and winning cases discourages more lawsuits from being filed before Oct. 1, the magic date the statute of limitations runs out for filing Vioxx-related lawsuits in most states.

Although Merck has vowed to fight each and every Vioxx case, legal experts believe that's a short-term plan, and for good reason: The New Jersey drugmaker has spent about $70 million in legal costs per case.

If the number of plaintiffs continue to rise, however, judges sifting through a rising number of Vioxx lawsuits could put an end to the legal fight and force Merck and its plaintiffs to settle, experts say.

Of course, a pre-made trial package recently developed by Virginia attorneys for use by plaintiffs in Vioxx cases may greatly accelerate that time-table too.

CNN Money.com April 25, 2006

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