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New Jersey judge denies British Vioxx plaintiffs US venue

[JURIST] New Jersey Superior Court [official website] Judge Carol Higbee has issued an order [text, PDF] striking down about 50 lawsuits brought by British plaintiffs in the New Jersey state court against Merck & Co. [corporate website], the manufacturer of the drug Vioxx [JURIST news archive], which has caused health problems for thousands of arthritis patients both in the US and abroad. In her ruling [memorandum text, PDF], made Thursday, Higbee noted:

Compensatory damages are available to plaintiffs in the UK courts. These damages, independent of punitive damages, are sufficient to render the available damage remedies in the foreign court as adequate . . . [Merck] submits that it will be amenable to service of process in the UK and that this is sufficient to render the foreign jurisdiction available . . . [Merck] will not act to prevent Plaintiffs from returning to this court if the UK court declines to accept jurisdiction.
The decision comes as a blow to hundreds of British patients who suffered increased risks of heart attacks and strokes after taking the pill for over 18 months, and who have been waiting since April [BBC report] to hear if they could bring suit in the US. Since the drug was withdrawn from the market in 2004, Merck has steadfastly denied allegations that Vioxx was not tested properly beforehand. Nearly a dozen related state [JURIST report] and federal [JURIST report] lawsuits have gone to trial in the last two years against Merck, with the drug company winning about half of the cases. The New Jersey courts have issued a slew of Vioxx-related orders [NJ Vioxx litigation website]. The Times of London has more.

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