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New Jersey appeals court upholds bar on Vioxx lawsuits with UK plaintiffs

[JURIST] The New Jersey Superior Court [official website] on Tuesday affirmed a lower court decision that New Jersey is not an appropriate forum [opinion, PDF] for 98 English and Welsh plaintiffs to proceed with personal injury lawsuits against the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant Merck [corporate website]. The court held that the UK was an adequate alternative home forum for the plaintiffs [Merck press release, PDF], rejecting the plaintiffs' assertions that their remedies under UK law will be inadequate. In addition, the court also found that the state's interest in "regulating the conduct of corporations domiciled" in New Jersey would not be furthered by the addition of foreign plaintiffs because Merck already faces thousands of domestic plaintiffs alleging that its painkiller Vioxx [Merck backgrounder; JURIST news archive] contributed or caused their cardiovascular illnesses. The plaintiffs' lawyer, Michael A. Galpern, said they are considering an appeal to the Supreme Court of New Jersey [official website] and criticized the ruling for disregarding the British legal system's assignment of legal fees to losing plaintiffs.

Merck pulled Vioxx from the market in September 2004 after a study showed that it could double the risk of heart attacks or stroke if taken for more than 18 months. Merck has set aside $1 billion to fight every Vioxx court challenge. AP has more.

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