Tuesday, August 30, 2005

New Orleans, MS, AL and Katrina

I - like many others - watched with dread as Katrina made a bee line to New Orleans this past weekend. I prayed for those I knew and those who were riding it out. As many know, NOLA is one of the USA's poorest big cities.

It's my favorite city in the U.S. I have friends there and from there, I have had business clients from there, and travel there on a regular basis. Most were certain that NOLA would take a direct hit and be wiped out.

I don't agree with folks who said, thank goodness it turned to the east, as the misery for MS and AL residents is bad as well. My friend in Mobile reported that it's pretty bad there.

At times like these the things we do take a back seat a little bit as you watch and wait. Once things settle down and the weather clears people will be able to try to clean up. In my practice we talked about matters that we had taken for granted, such as: Are the USDCT employees in safe places? Will they be able to get back to work?

My thoughts and prayers are with those now. Hopefully yours are as well.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Vioxx MDL Report for August, 2005

While you can see the information that was to be addressed online, here are a few items that may be of interest:

There currently are pendig 1811 cases in the MDL, with another 290 in the process of being trasferred to Judge Fallon's Cort.

There are 200 cases pending in state courts other than New Jersey and California. In New Jersey, the docket dwarfs any other, with more than 2400 cases pending there. There are 250 cases in California Corts. There are pending 148 class actions.

Judge Fallon noted that the caseload in the MDL would double within the next six months.

There are currently pending more than 380 cases where a Motion for Remand has been filed.

Currently the trial docket shapes up this way: Trial number 2 is set for 9/1205 in NJ State Court. The next trial after that is October 24, 2005. The first MDL trial is 11/28, and trial #4 is in a Texas state Court begining in March of 2006.

The Judge informed counsel that he wants to set cases for trial in February, March, and April of 2006. He envisions a trial on different injuries - MI, Stroke, etc.

The paper production is huge. Currently there have been one million pages produced, with another nine million pages set to be produced within the next month. The FDA informs that it will be producing nearly 100,000 pages soon.

An interesting discussion regarding tolling agreement-filed cases: Merck's attorney indicated that a number of cases seeking protection under the T.A. were "sloppily filed." (His words in open court). My question is this: With the stakes so high, who would do this? Does the counsel who takes a shortcut think Merck and its counsel would not see the shoddy work early on? Does this counsel think he or she has an easy road now?

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Articles/Blogs Re: Merck Vioxx Verdict & its Fallout

Thanks to Evan @ his blog www.legalunderground.com for in turn directing me to Beldarblog. There is a well done post as to the Verdict in Vioxx rendered in a Texas town last week.

You can go here to read more. One timely comment that no one (no one at Fox News, or CNN, or MSNBC has bothered to air) is this:

"Brazoria County is still generally regarded as one of the more pro-personal injury plaintiff venues in Texas, but considerably less so now than it was, say, 20 years ago. The entire state has become less pro-plaintiff over that time period; the state-court trial judges there, like most other places in the state now, have mostly been appointed by Republican governors and/or elected as Republicans. " Thus the battle in the battle in that first Vioxx trial was largely won in the trenches - for example, when the Judge allowed the testimony of the coroner to be admitted.

Another article in the WSJ today (Section D) written by James Stewart boldly says what I suggested in my August 6th post : Merck should have settled.

More tomorrow from the MDL hearing in New Orleans.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Understanding the Vioxx Verdict

It's worth your while to pick up today's WSJ as it has two articles that detail the verdict and its potential ramifications.

The jurors concluded that a critical piece of evidence was a 1997 email from Dr. Alise Reicin that said in part that the possibility of increased cardiovascular events should be considered of great concern. Merck has told the FDA and the public that it did not know of the drug's CV risk until the fall of 2004.

My good friend Tom Kline was taking the deposition of Dr. Reicin on Friday when the verdict was announced. Dr. Reicin was so shaken by the news that she could not complete her deposition that day. (Mr. Kline is on the Vioxx MDL steering committee, and we are working together, investigating other potentiall unsafe drugs).

Before you reach any conclusions on the verdict, it's worth the price of the paper to see what happened in this trial.

Friday, August 19, 2005

$253 million verdict just in: Vioxx Trial #1

Read about it everywhere, including: Bloomberg. Good job Mark Lanier and team!

James J. Cramer wrote before the verdict:

"Why does Wall Street consistently underestimate the power of the mass-tort bar?"

Georgia Watch comments on the DOJ report

My friends at Georgia Watch are battling those who would either deny citizen access to the Courts or limit the remedies that could be obtained. Georgia Watch is a non-profit, nonpartisan 501-(c)(3) watchdog group focusing on consumer education and research in the areas of health care, insurance and personal finance.

My good friend Allie Wall from Georgia Watch issued this Release yesterday:

ATLANTAA new report released Wednesday by the Department of Justice found that the number of tort trials in the U.S. dropped by almost 80% from 1985 to 2003. The report, entitled “Federal Tort Trials and Verdicts,” also reveals that there is no “litigation explosion,” contradicting claims of so-called frivolous lawsuits presented to state legislators by insurance industry lobbyists at the 2005 Georgia General Assembly.

According to the Justice Department, the popularity of alternative dispute resolution and the “increased complexity and costs inherent in taking a case to trial” have made it harder than ever for an injured person to exercise their Constitutionally-guaranteed right to a trial by jury.

Senate Bill 3, signed into law in February by Governor Sonny Perdue, further restricts families’ ability to seek justice by drastically reducing accountability for corporations such as Georgia Pacific, and for health care providers, nursing homes and hospitals. In fact, SB 3 gives all emergency room personnel near-complete immunity, even when their negligence and mistakes clearly resulted in the injury or death of an innocent patient.

The effect of these extreme limitations on the Constitutional rights of individuals and families is already apparent. Pat Wright, a Gainesville resident and factory worker, has searched over six months for legal representation after discovering metal sutures that were left in her left arm and shoulder following a 2003 surgery. As a result, Wright believes, she has suffered severe, constant pain for over two years and has permanent nerve damage.

“It's devastating for me and my family, and there are so many more like me who just want their day in court, to hold the person who hurt us accountable,"
said Wright. "Isn’t that one of the founding principles of our country? No one has been able to explain why victims of medical negligence don’t deserve a fair jury trial, but that's the law now here in Georgia,” she continued.


The report, "Federal Tort Trials and Verdicts, 2002-03" NCJ-208713 was written by BJS statistician Thomas H. Cohen and can be accessed online at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/fttv03.htm

Founded in 2002, Georgia Watch is a non-profit, nonpartisan 501-(c)(3) watchdog group focusing on consumer education and research in the areas of health care, insurance and personal finance.