Judge's Decision to Dismiss Part of Vioxx Lawsuit Reveals Flaw of 2003 Texas Law
By Gerri Elder
On April 21, a Texas district judge dismissed part of a personal injury lawsuit involving the once-popular pain medication Vioxx, basing his decision on a 2003 tort reform law in the state that fails to provide enough protection for consumers.
An Associated Press story detailed the reasoning behind State District Judge Randy Wilson's decision to dismiss part of a Vioxx lawsuit by Ruby Ledbetter against the drug's manufacturer Merck, which had motioned for such an action.
Ledbetter had claimed in her Vioxx lawsuit that Merck failed to provide an adequate warning about potential side effects of this drug, which was released in 1999 and pulled from the market in 2004 after researched linked it with doubling the risk factors for heart attacks and strokes.
Merck had argued that Ledbetter could not claim in her personal injury lawsuit that the company had failed to properly warn about Vioxx side effects because of a 2003 Texas personal injury law.
Specifically, this Texas personal injury law says that a drug manufacturer is not liable for allegations that it failed to provide sufficient warnings about its product if the drug in question came with warning approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In other words, Merck would not be liable for such allegations because the FDA approved its Vioxx warnings.
This 2003 Texas personal injury law was naturally a part of tort reform efforts and ultimately reveals how consumers can lose certain protections when powerful lobbyists of the drug manufacturers have their way.
Implications of this Texas Vioxx Lawsuit Decision!
The AP story said that Wilson's decision to dismiss part of Ledbetter's Texas Vioxx lawsuit could have large implications for similar litigation in the state. Wilson said in his ruling that nearly all Texas Vioxx lawsuits include allegations that Merck failed to provide an adequate warning about these potential Vioxx side effects.
The story added that Wilson told the lawyers in this specific Vioxx litigation case that his decision could essentially put all of these product liability cases in the state on hold until an appeals court rules on the issue. Tommy Fibich was one of Ledbetter's Texas personal injury attorneys and said that the appeals process could take more than two years for these Vioxx lawsuits.
Such an estimation would be exactly what Merck and its powerful attorneys would want as such a lengthy appeals process would likely test the dedication and mettle of at least some plaintiffs in these Vioxx lawsuits.
Merck has decided to fight all Vioxx lawsuits individually rather than reaching personal injury settlements. When getting a ruling like this in Texas, Merck and all other drug manufacturers further add more power to their already enormous treasure chest of resources and influence. Ultimately, it is those consumers with valid defective drugs claims who will suffer when drug companies like Merck get such assistance in tort reform laws.
Examining Future Vioxx Litigation!
In relation to Ledbetter's Vioxx lawsuit, Wilson said that she will have to prove that Merck withheld or misrepresented information that was required by the FDA prior to the drug's approval and that this information was related to her injury.
Merck still faces 27,250 such claims about the drug throughout the rest of the country. Merck has been victorious in 10 of the first 15 cases but has been hit with some significant losses, including a $47.5 million Atlantic City, New Jersey verdict against them.