In what will clearly be a crucial test of the respective arguments of Merck and the Vioxx litigants, a major trial commences in Judge Carol Higbee's NJ court room, featuring the one trail lawyer who has won against Merck, that being Attorney Mark Lanier.
What makes this trial some intriguing and pivotal in this litigation:
1. Attorney Lanier, a Texas native who won the $256 million verdict last year, has "taken his show on the road" and will be trying the case in New Jersey, a totally different venue then the plaintiff friendly environment you typically find in most areas of Texas. How he is planning on making that transition a success is the focus of a fascinating article here in the online version of The Wall Street Journal.
2. This is the first case in which a "long duration" is being tried, meaning a situation where a victim took Vioxx for more then 18 months. This is important as even Merck concedes in it's own science that this was where cardiac risk began to show up, so a win for Merck in a case like this would be a huge blow to the entire plaintiff case nationally. The last two verdicts against the plaintiff have been on short duration cases, so loses weren't unexpected, but a loss here would bolster Merck's position tremendously.
3. Merck is defending this case in it's proverbial corporate backyard. Jury remarks after the first NJ case in which Merck prevailed showed a highly corporate, pro-defense slant. Merck has to hope that it gets another solidly pro-defense jury pool, and that the charming Texan, Mark Lanier, grates on the Northeastern sensibilities instead of charming them.
My take on it. You can take a great trial lawyer and put him anywhere and he can prevail. Classic examples being Gerry Spence, Johnny Cochran, Phil Corboy, etc. They could be in their back yard or somewhere far afield and they would typically prevail if they had the facts on their side. My money is on Mark Lanier, but it's going to be a glorious battle by two sides that can't afford a loss.