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Merck avoids liability in latest Vioxx trial

[JURIST] A federal jury sitting in New Orleans ruled Wednesday that Merck & Co. [corporate website], makers of the painkiller Vioxx [JURIST news archive] that was withdrawn from the market [Merck announcement] after it was found to expose users to increased risk of heart attack and stroke, was not liable for damages [Merck press release] allegedly caused by the heart attack of a Utah man. Charles Laron "Ron" Mason, 64, had taken the painkiller for a 10 1/2 month period. Mason surprisingly revealed under cross-examination that he had actually stopped taking the drug four days before he suffered his heart attack.

This was the eleventh Vioxx-related case tried in US courts, and the fourth tried in federal courts. Three of the four federal cases have now gone Merck's way, although it has lost half of the state suits decided so far. More than 24,000 cases have been filed regarding Vioxx with another 15,000 possible plaintiffs who have temporarily agreed to postpone their suits. Merck intends to try each case separately. US District Judge Eldon Fallon [official profile] has presided over all of the federal Vioxx cases, and will continue to handle all pretrial matters for future cases. Mason has not yet decided whether to appeal. AP has more.

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