Roger Parloff's new blog has a great entry on the latest Vioxx litigation developments; Parloff is the first reporter I've seen to note both that (1) "23,800" lawsuits really reflects 41,750 sets of plaintiffs; and (2) many of the lawsuits are completely meritless by any standard. He has an interesting quote from Kent Jarrell, a spokesperson for Merck's outside law firm, Hughes Hubbard & Reed:
"You are correct that in most states the statute of limitatations has now run. But by our count when it comes to personal injury lawsuits, there are still 28 states with longer limits and in death cases, there are 16 more states.
"The last minute increase of filings just before Sept. 30th 2006 is not unexpected. Generally this tide of 'deadline beater' cases turn out to be comprised of weaker cases. Plaintiff lawyers faced with a filing deadline want to avoid malpractice claims from their clients for failing to follow through and actually filing their cases.
"As we examine cases, we are finding, time after time, that the allegations are not backed up by facts. The claims of over 3,000 plaintiff groups have been dismissed to date. More specifically, there have been over 1,100 plaintiff groups whose claims were dismissed with prejudice either by plaintiffs themselves or by the courts. Over 2,000 additional plaintiff groups have had their claims dismissed without prejudice. Almost 800 plaintiff groups had their claims dismissed by courts because plaintiffs did not submit fact sheets or were dismissed by plaintiffs themselves after Merck noted their failure to submit fact sheets.
"From the beginning, Merck has said it would look at this litigation on a case by case basis. That is exactly what we have been doing. It takes resources to back up our ongoing strategy and that is what this reserve increase is all about. We face a rigorous trial schedule for the rest of this year and into next year. We have the legal infrastructure in place across the country to ensure that we continue engaging in a vigorous defense of this litigation.
"Remember, it is the plaintiffs who are responsible for filing cases. They now seem to be frustrated by the very fact that Merck is closely examining each one on an individual basis and is prepared to go to court to defend the cases."