[JURIST] Pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. [corporate website] said Friday that it has agreed to pay $4.85 billion to settle all pending lawsuits [press release] regarding Merck's marketing and distribution of the painkiller Vioxx [Merck materials; JURIST news archive]. The settlement requires 85 percent of the 47,000 plaintiffs in 27,000 pending lawsuits to approve the deal before it will bind parties. Plaintiffs who opt out of the settlement agreement will be free to continue their claims, but may face difficulty finding a trial lawyer not already involved in one of the cases subject to the settlement agreement. Plaintiffs will receive different settlement payments depending on the severity of their injuries and the length of time they used Vioxx, but the average plaintiff will receive approximately $100,000 before legal fees and expenses.
Merck had originally vowed to take every Vioxx case to trial, despite losing a $253 million Texas jury verdict [JURIST report] in the first case to reach a verdict. With over 20 completed civil trials on the books, Merck won the majority of cases that reached juries. The New York Times has more.