January 23, 2007
Mistrials declared in Los Angeles Vioxx cases
A Los Angeles judge declared mistrials in the cases of two men who blame Merck’s withdrawn painkiller Vioxx for their heart attacks. Rudolph Arrigale and Lawrence Appell, plaintiffs in the two cases tried together, claimed that Merck failed to disclose known dangers of the medicine. Attorneys for Merck argued that both men were at risk for heart injuries regardless of whether they were taking Vioxx. Jurors were deadlocked in the trial presided over by Judge Victoria Chaney. Seven answered “yes” that Appell’s doctor should have recognized the risks of Vioxx, while five answered “no.” A nine-member majority was needed to move beyond that question on the jury questionnaire. Appell’s attorney, Brian Panish, said in a Reuters report that a new trial could begin as early as April. Merck spokesman Thomas Yoo, said there had been no discussions about a potential settlement. “If either of these plaintiffs want to go again, we’ll be ready.” Yoo said. The jury deliberated for about six days, which was broken up by a three-week break for the holidays, Reuters reported. One juror was replaced after she informed the judge that a relative had taken Vioxx. Meanwhile, the widow of man who blamed Vioxx for the heart attack and death of her husband dropped her lawsuit five weeks before the trial was set to start. The suit was voluntarily dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning it cannot be filed again, Merck said in a statement. As of Sept. 30, claims related to more than 3,000 alleged Vioxx users have been dismissed before being scheduled for trial, including more than 1,100 dismissed with prejudice, Merck said.