This week Judge Fallon has commented that he may stop (before he has even begun in earnest) trying any cases in New Orleans. During this week's monthly hearing Fallon
said he may ``shut down'' the consolidation if all the cases are being tried in state court before we get one tried in federal court.'
Fallon had said before Katrina struck that he wanted to try some Vioxx claims before starting settlement talks. By my count, at least six Vioxx suits are set for trial in state courts in New Jersey, Texas, Florida and California.
How to try them? The Judge commented from the bench that witnesses could not be located, lawyers were not available, and records and doctors could not be located. That is to say nothing of seating a jury in NOLA.
What will happen? IMHO they either get sent back to the state where the suit was filed (and tried in USDCT there), the MDL is moved permanently elsewhere, it is kept there but Judge Fallon sits by designation in other states (not likely), or the MDL is dismantled (not likely). Would the PSC and Merck Counsel agree to some sort of abeyance? With the two (2) year anniversary of the market withdrawal coming up, the closer that date is, the better idea Merck will have (in 2 year SOL states) how many claims are out there. My best guess is that the another trial will be held in NOLA but it may have to be set closer to late summer.
Merck should want them in one place, but given the strategy so far, the company may wish to have them splintered off, and it will result the death of the company by a thousand cuts.