After Friday's melt down in court by defense counsel for Merck, caused by the Judge's refusal to allow objections to her decision to throw out testimony by Merck physician Dr. Briggs Morrison, I made several calls to get the back ground on judge Higbee's decision, and what caused this unusual set of circumstances.
It is our understanding that the day before defense counsel Stephen D. Raber neglected to establish Dr. Morrison's credentials prior to going into a line of questions about complex and specific scientific matters related Vioxx's impact on blood clotting, which can in turn lead to strokes and heart attacks. This is of course crucial testimony in that it brings into question the role the drug might have played in the heart attack of the plaintiff in this matter, Mr. Frederick Humeston. In particular the questioning sought to put a dent in the plaintiff allegations that Merck had data years before that Vioxx played a role in clotting.
As Merck's first defense witness, Dr. Morrison's testimony was a crucial element in Merck's defense, and his disqualification as a witness on this specific testimony, as well as the admonishment of the defense team clearly was a staggering blow to the defense. Chris Seeger was quoted as saying, Merck was trying to "backdoor" Dr. Morrison as an expert pharmacology witness, when he appear to not have the qualifications to provide testimony in that area.
When the judge ruled in very specific, emotional and plain language that she felt betrayed and sickened by the defense tactics in using Dr. Morrison, and then ruled he was to be removed as a witness, the result was predictable as the defenses frustrations with the judge finally boiled over into a shouting match and the much reported threat to remove defense counsel Dianne Sullivan from the court room.
Clearly, the loss of this witness was and is devastating to the defense, and quite frankly I will be stunned at this point if there isn't a major plaintiffs verdict.
I will be equally stunned if an appeal isn't immediately filed based on the events of the trial. A verdict won't be the end of this case, and it's becoming clear this is starting to become personal for the defense.