I attended the hearing before Judge Fallon in New Orleans, LA regarding the Vioxx MDL. More than 200 attorneys, reporters, and vendors were in attendance.
The Court informed that it shall maintain a website on the litigation at: http://vioxx.laed.uscourts.gov . The next hearing is April 28, 2005.
Russ Herman of the HermanMathis firm spoke as liasion counsel for Plaintiffs. Counsel for Merck was represented by an attorney with Williams and Connelly. Issues covered during the hearing included dates for submission of all counsel seeking to be named to the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee, Position Papers, and Discovery guidelines.
It is expected that at least 10 to as many as 15 attorneys will sit on the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee. Speaking before a crowded courtroom several attorneys informed the Court that there were a number of pending claims both in state and federal court. At least two attorneys representing consumers asked that the Court include their clients' interests via a seat on the PSC.
Currently there are eleven cases set for trial in 2005 throughout the country. The first case that may be tried will be in Alabama. There are five cases set for trial in New Jersey before Judge Higbee. There are also eleven cases deemed class actions separate and apart from individual claims. Nine of the pending class actions are in Federal Court.
The issue of Tolling Agreements was discussed. Judge Fallon indicated that he would consider them under certain conditions.
Counsel discussed a central depository for documents, as well as a way to allow depositions to be taken, heard, and monitored via the web.
What else was learned that day? Hard to say. It is clear that many attorneys simply wanted to show up at the initial conference. Several well respected litigators were there to monitor the proceedings. Others to see if any information could be gleaned that would help.