As reported by the Associated Press, Judge Carol Higbee is sticking with her plan to try two Vioxx cases in the same trial, over objections from Merck, the manufacturer of Vioxx. Judge Higbee said the similarities in the two cases make it more efficient to try both together.
Jury selection should begin Monday in the fifth Vioxx trial. The two plaintiffs are Mr. Cona, 59, of Cherry Hill, who says he took Vioxx for more than two years before suffering a heart attack in June 2003. The second plaintiff, Mr. McDarby, 76, of Park Ridge, took it for about four years.
Their attorneys contend that the cases have enough in common to be heard in one trial, accelerating the pace with which Higbee – the lone New Jersey judge hearing Vioxx cases – disposes of a docket that has grown to 5,093 cases.
Judge Higbee said there was precedent for combining plaintiffs in mass tort cases like Vioxx, and that it would be redundant – and time-consuming – to have separate trials rehashing the same topics with the same expert witnesses from one trial to the next. She acknowledged the differences in the individual cases but said jurors would be able to cope.
So far, Merck has won two cases, lost one and a fourth is going on in Texas.