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Merck wins Dedrick federal case

The Dedrick case Michael mentions is the fifth jury victory for Merck in six cases, but, of course, when juries are allowed to award tens of millions of damages, trial lawyers can profitably bring meritless cases if juries get it wrong 15% of the time.

Of the seventeen cases that have been tried or scheduled for trial and are no longer pending, only four have resulted in a plaintiff's verdict. In my opinion, all four plaintiffs' victories suffered from reversible errors at trial, particularly in the admission of conclusory expert evidence. Juries have decided in Merck's favor in eight cases (one of which was overturned and will be retried) and five cases have been dismissed.

Another five cases, previously scheduled for trial, have been withdrawn from the trial calendar by the plaintiffs before the claims could reach trial. More than eleven hundred other plaintiff groups' claims have been dismissed with prejudice. [Bloomberg; WSJ; Merck press release]

Note that Dedrick sought only $200,000 in damages. In "bellwether trials", plaintiffs and defendants each pick their preferred cases to try, and, given the unsavory criminal past of the plaintiff (he had been convicted of bouncing checks) this was likely a case that Merck picked. The comparatively modest damages request was likely an attempt to get a victory so plaintiffs could stem the momentum Merck seems to be obtaining in these cases, a momentum that will only accelerate when appellate courts start ruling on the few plaintiffs' verdicts obtained to date. The question is where the tipping point is when plaintiffs start asking for nuisance settlements for their inventory of increasingly worthless Vioxx cases—or whether plaintiffs can get a jackpot verdict in a state-court jurisdiction that turns the tide.



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.