In his first published comments since the move earlier this week to with draw from the Vioxx MDL, Judge Eldon Fallon deemed the effort by the break away attorneys, " counterproductive" and repeated his prior belief that the mass of the cases could and should be resolved short of litigating every case, as is now the announced strategy of Merck.
As reported Monday, a group of ten prominent plaintiff firms withdrew from the MDL with the announced strategy of trying each case, one case at a time, in order to better serve their clients, maximize case value and to also reduce the need to take direction and share resources with the Plaintiff's Steering committee that controls most of the cases filed up to this date.
You can read all about it in the various string of articles in the WSJ online, but we have some additional insights and contacts to the group that have broken away and where this is all headed. In some of the off the record conversations we have had with various Vioxx attorney's in different locations around the country it has been obvious over the last several months that there was frustration with the pace of the case, the Merck strategy of trying one case at a time, and the direction of cases into Federal courts. Many attorney's didn't feel the process allowed them to properly represent their clients and that it was becoming largely administrative and collaborative work, as opposed to developing their case and trying them for the best possible result for their clients.
Obviously there was some underlying tension in any group of high powered, large ego, dynamic trial lawyers, and no doubt the cost of sending money to the PSC was an issue for some, but the people we spoke to largely related a desire to represent their clients, develop their cases and to try them in state courts close to where the plaintiffs lived and where they practiced law.
Despite the desires of the honorable Judge Fallon, who be virtually every account is doing an outstanding job and is a very fair and competent judge, I don't see any way this gets put back together again.
Once again, Merck has blown their chance to arrange a global, comprehensive settlement, and this break away group that will now cause them to fight on multiple fronts is going to drain their resources, scramble their defense strategy and ultimately multiply the cost of these cases to a sum far greater then it could have been resolved for early on.