Three years after his wife died of a heart attack, a widower and a pharmaceutical giant are ready to square off in the courtroom over whether the former painkiller Vioxx was linked to the death of his wife.
In the first Midwest trial regarding the arthritis medication, jury selection is to start in a trial to decide if Merck and Co. negligently failed to adequately warn of Vioxx’s potential risks before they pulled the drug off the market in 2004 after research showed increased risk of heart attacks and stroke.
Attorneys suing Merck for at least $50,000 in damages on each of the lawsuit’s eight counts say Schwaller had been taking Vioxx for more than 20 months before the Granite City woman died suddenly Aug. 8, 2003, after returning home with groceries. John Driscoll, the family’s attorney, said Schwaller had no previous heart attacks, strokes or symptoms of congestive heart disease.
But Merck expects to prove what it has argued in previous trials involving Vioxx – that heart problems by certain plaintiffs, including Schwaller, were caused by pre-existing health issues, not Vioxx. The company also contends it properly warned doctors of possible complications from using the painkiller.
Merck has been involved in over 27,000 personal injury lawsuits and another 265 potential class action lawsuits alleging harm from Vioxx that amounts to billions of dollars in litigation fees. Merck has reserved $1.64 billion in its Vioxx legal defense fund has won many of the dozen trials involving Vioxx thus far.