Judge Declares Mistrial in First Federal Vioxx Lawsuit
U.S. District Court Judge Eldon Fallon on Monday declared a mistrial in the first federal trial related to the COX-2 inhibitor Vioxx after jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict decision in more than 18 hours of deliberations, the New York Times reports. Merck, which withdrew Vioxx from the market last year over safety concerns, faces lawsuits related to the medication from more than 6,000 people in state and federal courts (Berenson, New York Times, 12/13)
After jurors deliberated for about 20 minutes on Monday morning, Fallon said, "It has now been a reasonable time. We cannot get a verdict" (Hays, AP/Long Island Newsday, 12/13).
Federal courts require unanimous verdicts in civil lawsuits (New York Times, 12/13).
Fallon said that he will meet with attorneys next week to determine a date for a new trial (AP/Long Island Newsday, 12/13).
According to the Wall Street Journal, jurors voted 8-1 in favor of Merck (Won Tesoriero/Martinez, Wall Street Journal, 12/13). Fallon did not comment on the mistrial. Attorneys for both sides said they did not know how the jury was divided (New York Times, 12/13).
Kenneth Frazier, general counsel for Merck, said, "The plaintiffs were unable to sustain their burden of convincing a jury that there was reliable evidence that Vioxx contributed in any way to the unfortunate death of Mr. Irvin" (Girion, Los Angeles Times, 12/13). Frazier said, "If a retrial is scheduled, we will be right back with the same facts." He added, "The Vioxx litigation will go on for years. We have the resources and the resolve to address these cases, one by one, in a reasonable and responsible manner" (Ginsberg, Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/13).
Plaintiff attorney Jere Beasley said, "We look forward to the next trial" (AP/Long Island Newsday, 12/13).
Several broadcast programs reported on the mistrial:
- APM's "Marketplace": The segment includes comments from Merck attorney Philip Beck; Mark Lanier, lead plaintiff attorney in the first state Vioxx trial; and David Logan, dean of Roger Williams University School of Law (Palmer, "Marketplace," APM, 12/12). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NPR's "All Things Considered": The segment includes comments from Beck and plaintiff attorney Andy Birchfield (Prakash, "All Things Considered," NPR, 12/12). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NPR's "Day to Day": The segment includes comments from Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, and Tess Vigeland of "Marketplace" (Chadwick, "Day to Day," NPR, 12/12). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer": Health correspondent Susan Dentzer discusses the mistrial (Warner, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 12/12). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.