Aug. 2005 – Iowans who have sued please with Merck finding

Des Moines Register. Tony Leys. August 20, 2005.

Iowans who have sued please with Merck finding

Friday’s verdict in Texas against Merck & Co. was good news for at least 16 Iowans who have filed federal lawsuits against the company for injuries or deaths allegedly caused by Vioxx.

Most of the Iowa plaintiffs say they or their spouses suffered heart attacks or strokes, including some that were fatal, after taking the prescription painkiller. Jurors in the Texas case awarded $253.4 million to a Texas woman whose husband died of a heart attack after taking the now-discontinued drug.

Two Iowa lawyers who have filed Vioxx lawsuits said they are encouraged by the verdict, which was the first of its kind.

Don Beattie, who practices law in Des Moines, called the outcome “a victory for consumers.”

“It pretty much establishes the liability of Merck, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

Beattie predicted that eventually the drugmaker will decide to settle cases that meet criteria showing legitimate claims. He said the firm also might try to declare bankruptcy to limit its losses.

Larry Helvey, who practices both medicine and law in Cedar Rapids, expects the drugmaker to appeal the verdict. He also predicted that the company would take a few more cases to trial before deciding whether to start settling the tidal wave of claims against it.

Every case is different, Helvey said, so he would not tell his clients to celebrate yet. But Friday’s verdict gives reason for hope. “Much of the evidence they used in that case is the same evidence that we would use in our cases,” he said.

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