The Vioxx Resolution Program is proceeding smoothly and efficiently in accordance with the schedule agreed upon by Plaintiffs’ Negotiating Counsel and Merck & Co. The first step in cementing the $4.85 billion dollar settlement deal was the registration of all Vioxx claims which were filed in court or tolled with Merck prior to November 9, 2007. Currently, 58,241 claims have been registered and 921 separate law firms have registered claims related to Vioxx. Registered claims are designated as either involving a heart attack, stroke, or other injury. In addition, claimants were required to disclose if the injury in question caused death and/or if the Vioxx user had ingested Vioxx for more than 12 months prior to the injury in question.
The second step in effectuating the settlement is the enrollment of eligible claims. Only cases alleging a heart attack or stroke and filed or tolled prior to November 9, 2007, are eligible to enroll or participate in the Program. In order for the Settlement Program to become effective, 85% of all eligible heart attack and stroke claims must be enrolled in the program. To date, approximately 46,700 of those alleging an eligible injury have taken steps to enroll. This means that over 93% of eligible claims have been enrolled. Though analyses of enrollment documents are ongoing, it appears certain that the Vioxx Resolution Program will become effective and any rights Merck has under the settlement agreement to walk away from the settlement will be extinguished.
Following the enrollment stage, the third step will be for Claimants, or their Counsel, to submit medical records to the Claims Administrator, including hospitalization records and pharmacy records which prove that they suffered heart attacks or strokes while using Vioxx. The Claims Administrator will determine if the claims pass through the three gates necessary for compensation: injury, duration of Vioxx usage, and proximity of usage. The deadline for the submission of claims information or packages is July 1, 2008. Over 1300 packages have been submitted to the Claims Administrator at this time, involving claimants represented by 44 law firms.
The Vioxx Resolution Program is proceeding very efficiently. One of the hallmarks of the Program is that eligible plaintiffs with legitimate claims will be compensated as fairly and quickly as possible. Many Vioxx victims have had pending lawsuits for more than five years, some even having won large jury verdicts, but have not been compensated one dollar to date. Thanks to the insight of Plaintiffs’ Negotiating Counsel, eligible claimants with compensable claims will receive an interim payment as early as August of this year. This is unheard of in a large mass tort settlement and very good for the individuals and their families who were injured by Vioxx. Andy Birchfield, Leigh O’Dell, Roger Smith and staff in the Mass Torts Section are doing a tremendous job in bringing this monumental undertaking to a conclusion.
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