As reported in the Houston Chronicle, federal Judge Eldon Fallon decided today that the more than 7000 pending Vioxx lawsuits cannot be combined into one single class-action lawsuit. The plaintiffs generally preferred the simplicity and reduced expenses of a single suit, but the manufacturer of Vioxx, Merck, preferred the complexity of many separate lawsuits. From the article:
“We are pleased with the decision,” said Kent Jarrell, a spokesman for Merck, which wants to try every suit individually. He said the company is putting together a more detailed response.
Merck has won six cases, three each in federal and various state district courts. A fourth state court victory was overturned and a retrial ordered. The company has lost one federal case and three in state courts.
Russ Herman, chairman of a committee of plaintiffs’ lawyers, said he had expected the decision. “Federal jurisprudence currently tracks an industry theory that thousands of injured people should litigate individually in order to give a single wrongful manufacturer due process,” he said.
Fallon’s 25-page ruling rejected the plaintiffs’ proposal to try all the cases under the laws in New Jersey. They argued that the company should reasonably expect to follow the laws of the state where it is headquartered.
“While this is true, it is just as true that Merck, an international corporation providing its drugs to every state in the nation, should expect to abide by every jurisdiction’s laws,” Fallon wrote.