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Thursday, May 29th 2008

Two Vioxx Verdicts Get Altered On Appeal

Two of the earliest Vioxx suits which went for the plaintiffs have been overturned or reduced. In Texas an appeals court overturned a twenty-six million dollar verdict. In New Jersey the court reduced the award for a plantiff who blamed his MI for a heart attack from fourteen million to nine million. Both were clients of Mark Lanier.

Mark Lanier, a plaintiffs’ lawyer who was involved in both cases decided Thursday, criticized the decisions and promised appeals. But plaintiffs face an uphill battle.

In the Texas case, three appeals court judges simply reversed the verdict of a jury that had spent six weeks hearing testimony from more than a dozen witnesses. Essentially, the appeals court threw out the views of the plaintiffs’ experts.

“The judges wrote a simple decision that defies medicine and the trial itself,” Mr. Lanier said. He said he would appeal the verdict “to the Supreme Court, if necessary.”

At this point, beyond the individuals seeking damages, these rulings have little impact. Merck has already reached a settlement. The appellate courts’ rulings do however continue the demonstration of the weakness of the plaintiff’s claims against Vioxx. As the NYT says,

The rulings on Thursday leave lawyers for plaintiffs with just three victories, all with relatively small verdicts, in the nearly 20 Vioxx cases that have reached juries.

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