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Vioxx users who have not suffered any known harm from the now-withdrawn pain drug cannot sue Merck & Co. for money to cover medical tests or treatment, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday, June 4.
This ruling marks the latest in a series of legal victories for chemical company Merck, which pulled their popular arthritis and pain drug in September 2004 after it was found to double the risk of strokes and heart attacks in patients who had used it for at least 18 months.
In the New Jersey ruling, the court concluded, “…that because plaintiffs cannot satisfy the definition of harm to state a product liability claim under the Product Liability Act, plaintiffs’ claim for medical monitoring damages must fail.”
Merck’s argument had been that there was no medical evidence supporting the need for the plaintiff’s to be monitored for cardiovascular issues nearly four years after Vioxx was removed from the market. Said Merck attorney Ted Mayer, “The New Jersey Supreme Court has made it clear that you cannot bring a medical monitoring claim unless you allege you were injured by a product.”
Other recent victories for Merck include a pair of multimillion-dollar awards recently reversed in Texas, and another New Jersey court reversing punitive damages and awards of legal fees.
Of the 18 plaintiffs whose cases actually went to trial only three now remain.
Last November, the chemical company agreed to pay $4.5 billion to settle thousands of personal injury claims brought by former Vioxx users who had suffered heart attacks and strokes. At the time of settlement, Merck was facing roughly 26,600 personal injury lawsuits.