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Merck nemesis to file suit in NJ
Lanier, who won the first Vioxx suit against Merck, plans to take his battle to N.J.
November 3, 2005: 4:30 PM EST
By Aaron Smith, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Mark Lanier, the Houston lawyer who won the first Vioxx lawsuit against Merck in August, said he will make a request in New Jersey Superior Court on Monday to represent the first of some 20,000 plaintiffs.

His move comes on the heels of a major victory for Merck in the state.

"You've got to really show [jurors] very clearly what Merck did wrong and you need to have your hands clean when you do it," said Lanier.

Lanier has joined other "dream team" lawyers who plan to file 20,000 cases in state court. The lawyers are resisting any attempt on the part of federal authorities to consolidate Vioxx cases in federal court under Judge Eldon Fallon in Houston, where some 2,900 cases have been consolidated. Since the "dream team" cases have not been filed, they are not included in Merck's tally of about 6,400 Vioxx lawsuits.

Lanier represented Carol Ernst, whose Vioxx patient husband died in 2001, in the first trial in Angleton, Texas. The jury awarded Ernst $253 million, though her damages will be capped at $26 million with interest, said Lanier.

On Thursday Merck was ruled not liable in a second lawsuit, where lawyer Chris Seeger represented Frederick Humeston, who suffered a non-fatal heart attack in 2001 while a Vioxx patient. Like Ernst, Humeston had blamed Vioxx for the heart attack.

"I think jurors had problems with the integrity factors that went along with this plaintiff," said Lanier, referring to the Humeston case. "If the jurors think the plaintiff has dirty hands, it's hard for the plaintiff to argue about how dirty Merck is."

Merck withdrew arthritis painkiller Vioxx from the market in September, 2004, after clinical data showed that patients taking the drug for more than 18 months suffered heart attacks and strokes. Merck has insisted all along that Vioxx did not cause anyone's heart attack or death.

To read about the Humeston verdict, click here.  Top of page

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