Merck vowed to fight til the death. They vowed to litigate each Vioxx case to conclusion. Apparently, that vow only applied until the statute of limitations ran on most of the cases.
On Friday, November 9,2007, Merck agreed to a global settlement for the Vioxx cases in the amount of 4.85 billion dollars. According to Merck’s executive vice president, Kenneth Frazier, “without this settlement, the litigation might very well stretch on for years.” Didn’t they know this when they defiantly stated they would try each case? Surely, their thousands of attorneys making enormous hourly rates informed them of this fact. So, why settle at this stage of the game? After only fifteen (15) trials (they estimate that there are 45,000-50,000 lawsuits pending)? That’s a far cry from fighting to the death.
Maybe it’s because Merck knows it has problems. In fact, in the settlement agreement, Merck makes a huge concession which contradicts its position over the last few years. To qualify for the settlement, claimants will have to show that they received enough pills to support a presumption that they were ingested within two weeks before injury. Previously, Merck claimed that Vioxx caused harm only after eighteen (18) months of use. Hmmm. That’s a pretty big concession from a company that was fighting every case to verdict.
A Montgomery, Alabama attorney, Andy Birchfield, a partner with the law firm Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis. & Miles. P.C. led the negotiating committee for the MDL (Multi District Litigation). According to Jere Beasley, “it was a very good settlement which will ensure that those who suffered injuries as a result of Vioxx are compensated fairly and efficiently.” Isn’t that what Merck should have done to begin with?