As reported in a Dallas Morning News article, the next Vioxx trial is about to start in South Texas, an area referred to as the Rio Grande Valley, or just the Valley. This is one of the very few areas of Texas with a reputation of being friendly to plaintiffs in injury trials. That may play a large part in the outcome of this trial, because the facts are actually quite weak for the plaintiff.
Excerpts from the article:
Leonel Garza was 71 when he died of a heart attack, 23 years after being diagnosed with heart disease and decades after a heart attack and a quadruple bypass. But his lawyers who are suing Merck & Co. say it was the Vioxx that he took for arm pain for 17 days that killed him.
Even though the New Jersey pharmaceutical giant is facing hundreds of lawsuits from people who took the once-popular painkiller before it was pulled from the market, Mr. Garza’s case would have little hope of making it to trial anywhere but the Rio Grande Valley, some legal experts say.
“What you’re seeing is a case that is strong in the merits for Merck but has got to be balanced on the challenges Merck will face in that jurisdiction,” said Peter Bicks, a New York City lawyer who has successfully defended large companies in Texas.
“This jurisdiction has been viewed as one of the toughest jurisdictions for corporate defendants in the country.”
But Leila Watson, a Birmingham, Ala., plaintiff attorney with about 70 Vioxx cases, said Mr. Garza was “exactly the kind of patient there should of been a warning for.”
“Nobody should have given this patient Vioxx, and I don’t fault the doctors,” she said.
Merck & Co. withdrew Vioxx from the market in September 2004, when a study showed it could double the risk of heart attack or stroke if taken for 18 months or longer. However, it says no such risk has been shown for shorter periods.
According to Mr. Garza’s lawyers, he was given Vioxx on April 4, 2001, and suffered a fatal heart attack 17 days later.