As was reported previously, on November 9, 2007, Merck agreed to pay $4.85 billion dollars to settle the claims of persons who suffered a heart attack or stroke while taking the pain reliever, Vioxx. Individuals who suffered a heart attack or stroke while taking Vioxx and have a filed or tolled claim are eligible to participate in the Settlement Program.
Those who have not previously filed a lawsuit or submitted their claim for tolling in the federal Multi-District Litigation (MDL) court are not eligible to participate but are free to continue pursuing their claims through the court system. The reaction to the Settlement Program has been very positive. Lawyers and their clients from around the country are taking necessary steps to participate in the Program.
In conjunction with the settlement, the MDL court, as well as the courts overseeing consolidated proceedings in New Jersey, California, and Texas, ordered that all claims relating to Vioxx be registered. The purpose of registration is to inform the courts and parties of the total number of Vioxx claims in the country. In order for an eligible claimant to participate in the Program, his or her claim must be registered. The deadline for registering Vioxx claims was January 15, 2008. Thus far, over 57,100 individual claims have been registered. This is very encouraging as lawyers anticipate enrolling their eligible clients into the program by the February 29, 2008 deadline. Releases have been submitted for over 3000 claimants. Meeting both the registration and enrollment deadlines is critical to the success of the settlement. Current progress toward meeting these deadlines is most encouraging.
Another positive development is that the BrownGreer firm has been appointed as the Claims Administrator for the Settlement Program. BrownGreer, which was started by Orran Brown and Lynn Greer in 2002, has achieved a nationwide reputation for fairness and efficiency in administering other mass tort settlements, including those arising out of the Diet Drugs, Sulzer, and Dalkon Shield litigations. As Claims Administrator, BrownGreer is receiving all registrations and will ultimately evaluate each claim that is enrolled in the Settlement Program. BrownGreer has done a very good job of getting up and running quickly, and we anticipate they will do an excellent job fulfilling their responsibilities in the future. Andy Birchfield, Leigh O’Dell, and Roger Smith are still working hard to make sure that all of the settlement goals are achieved. Andy and Leigh have already been to a number of states and they have done a great job of explaining the settlement and answering questions from lawyers who represent large numbers of clients. For further information about the Settlement Program, visit www.officialvioxxsettlement.com or www.browngreer.com.