A New Jersey judge has refused to certify a class filed by consumers who took the painkiller Vioxx. The Plaintiffs were trying to sue as a group to recover their out-of-pocket costs against the drugmaker Merck & Co. As you will recall, Merck pulled Vioxx from the market in 2004 because it increased the risk of heart attack and stroke. Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee denied the request from former Vioxx users to certify a class in the lawsuit. Judge Higbee, seated in Atlantic City, has handled many of the thousands of personal injury lawsuits filed against Merck. Her ruling in the case brought by the Plaintiffs said it would be “unfair to Merck to certify a class and allow a jury to reach a uniform determination of liability,” given that patients who took Vioxx had big differences in how long they took Vioxx and whether they used other pain relievers, as well as other factors.
The lawsuit was filed under New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act, claiming the company had known of the cardiovascular risks of Vioxx since 1996, but used various strategies to conceal the risks and overstated the drug’s safety and effectiveness in consumer ads. Merck’s lawyers had argued a jury would have to consider whether each Plaintiff would have kept taking Vioxx if more safety information had been available, as well as factors such as what an alternative drug would have cost.
Judge Higbee previously had denied certification of a class-action in a case brought by the Welfare Fund of a local union on behalf of health plans that had covered Vioxx costs for members. In both those cases, the Plaintiffs were seeking only economic damages. It should be noted that Judge Higbee’s ruling doesn’t affect our firm’s settlements in the Vioxx cases. Our cases were totally unrelated to this case.
Source: Associated Press
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