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Mistrial granted in Vioxx case

January 19, 2007|From Bloomberg News

Merck & Co. was granted a mistrial Thursday when a Los Angeles jury couldn't reach a verdict after six days of deliberations in a case over the heart attacks of two men who used the company's Vioxx painkiller.

California Superior Court Judge Victoria Chaney sent the jury of seven women and five men home after they deadlocked.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs said the case would probably be retried in April.

Merck, which faces 27,000 Vioxx suits, has won eight of 12 cases tried so far. A ninth victory was overturned and is being retried this week in a New Jersey courtroom. The Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based company has vowed to fight the cases one-by-one rather than settle, and has set aside $1.6 billion for the litigation.

The Los Angeles trial was the second group of California suits consolidated before Chaney.

Merck won the first in August when jurors returned a verdict after less than a day of deliberations.

The plaintiffs in this case, Rudolph Arrigale, 77, a retired truck and ambulance driver, and Laurence Appell, 56, a former Weight Watchers International Inc. executive, said they wouldn't have taken Vioxx if they had known about the health risks.

Lawyers for Arrigale, of Westminster, and Appell, of Scottsdale, Ariz., had argued that Merck failed to disclose the known dangers of Vioxx.

Merck lawyers told jurors the men's heart attacks were the result of their prior medical conditions and risk factors.

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