Vioxx verdict is in. Merck is Toast. $229 million for the plaintiff.

Ok, we all know this will be appealed, that the verdict "shocks the conscious of the court", etc, etc, etc.

Bottom line is Merck is screwed. It took less then one day of full deliberations for the jury to come back in and hand the plaintiffs a staggering victory. They can spin this any way they like, but the facts are they put on a lousy defense, Attorney Mark Lanier totally took them to school, and the closing arguments probably enraged the jury to a
degree rarely seen in civil trials.

In my conversations with Attorney's who were either there or read the transcripts, Merck's counsel somehow stumbled on to the concept that the widow, Mrs. Ernst, was only bringing this suit to relieve her guilt over suggesting to her late husband that he take Vioxx. After his death, according to their theory, she was so wracked with guilt due to the false allegations against Vioxx, that she filed suit to relieve that guilt. They actually said to the jury to lessen her burden, find for Merck, and let this poor woman know she didn't kill her husband!

Lanier could barely contain himself and he gave a blistering close and admonished the jury to let Merck know what they thought of their tactics and to return with numbers of a size that would let Merck know
they weren't going to get away with this. Obviously the jury listened and now comes the fall out.

The stock has collapsed, the attorney's are running for cover, and the strategy of "trying every single case" so often expounded by Merck in the press, will have to come to a close.  I learned long, long ago from an old hand in the claims business that "no one ever gets fired for settling a case, but a lot of guys get fired for trying cases that should never see a jury." Merck will be forced, with a weaker hand then
they had 3 months ago, to come to the table very soon and commence negotiations to settle these. They can talk big and posture all they want but this was devastating to Merck as it was a weak causation case and they still got drilled, so what is going to happen on the stronger

My prediction. They will go to trial on two more cases, probably the Alabama case and then maybe in NJ, and if those go badly it's all over. The next step will be a strategy for a global settlement and that's when this will get really interesting. Fascinating stuff and
congratulations to Mark Lanier on a superb job.

msnbc vioxx article
Posted on August 19, 2005 .