A federal judge in Houston declared a mistrial after the jury in the first federal court case involving Merck's Vioxx painkiller could not return a verdict. The trial involved the death of Richard Irvin, a Florida man who had taken the painkiller for about a month. The suit was brought by Irvin's widow, Evelyn Irvin Plunkett.
According to press reports, the nine-member jury was about 20 minutes into its fourth day of deliberations on Dec. 12 when U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon declared a mistrial after saying the jury had not reached a verdict in a reasonable time.
Philip S. Beck of the law firm Bartlit Beck, Merck's lead trial lawyer in the case, says, "We presented evidence that there is no medical evidence showing short-term use of Vioxx increases the risk of heart attack and no evidence that it contributed in any way to the unfortunate death of Richard Irvin." Beck notes that Irvin suffered from long-standing risk factors for a heart attack, including partially clogged arteries.
According to Kenneth C. Frazier, Merck's general counsel, "If a retrial is scheduled, we will be right back with the same facts. The Vioxx litigation will go on for years. We have the resources and the resolve to address these cases, one-by-one, in a reasonable and responsible manner."
Previously, Merck had won one Vioxx case and lost another in state courts.