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U.S. judge dismisses 50 Vioxx suits filed by Britons

U.S. judge dismisses 50 Vioxx suits filed by Britons

A judge has dismissed about 50 Vioxx-related lawsuits against Merck & Co. filed in New Jersey state court by British citizens, saying the cases should be heard in Britain.
Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee also ordered that Merck must take steps to ensure that the plaintiffs can have their cases heard in British courts. If British courts decline to accept them, the drug maker must not prevent the suits from being refiled in New Jersey, the judge ordered.
Higbee's order, which was posted on the court's Web site Thursday, came in response to Merck's motion to dismiss the lawsuits filed by British citizens, arguing Britain was the appropriate forum for their complaints.
"We believe this is the correct ruling," Ted Mayer, Merck's outside attorney for Vioxx litigation, said in a press release posted on Merck's Web site. "It makes little sense to try these cases here in New Jersey."
He added that British courts were more appropriate for the claims because the plaintiffs live in Britain, took Vioxx there, were treated there, and their medical records are in Britain.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs, James Pettit, could not be reached Friday.
Merck likely faces at least 22,000 U.S. lawsuits generally claiming the use of the painkiller Vioxx caused heart attacks or other cardiovascular events, and that Merck failed to properly warn of the drug's risks. Merck, which has denied those charges in trials, withdrew Vioxx from the market in September 2004 after a study showed it elevated the risk of cardiovascular events in people taking it for at least 18 months.
Some 14,675 of the Vioxx lawsuits have been filed in New Jersey state court because Merck designed, tested and manufactured Vioxx in the state. Higbee is overseeing the New Jersey litigation from her courtroom in Atlantic City.
The British plaintiffs objected to Merck's motion to dismiss their suits because they said British courts are not available or are inadequate to offer a remedy for their alleged injuries, according to a Higbee memo accompanying her order.
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Peter Loftus is a correspondent of Dow Jones Newswires


Updated : 2021-04-24 02:31 GMT+08:00