Merck & Co. announced on 9 November, 2007 that they are entering into an agreement regarding American plaintiffs who have filed claims against the Company in the United States with regard to Vioxx. This is not a class-action settlement as each claim will be evaluated on an individual basis. The agreement does NOT include plaintiffs from Canada or any other jurisdiction. Matt Napier advises that although this settlement agreement does not include the claimants in Nova Scotia whom he represents, it looks hopeful that Merck may also come to the table to discuss settlement of the Vioxx cases in Canada.
Although the agreement only applies to American plaintiffs, in order to give you some idea of Mercks thinking when it comes to settlements, we have set out below some of the criteria for plaintiffs there to qualify for compensation:
1.Only applies to claimants who have their cases filed with the courts on or before November 8, 2007;
2.Claimants will have to prove the following:
(a)an injury requiring objective medical proof of myocardial infarction (MI) or ischemic stroke (as defined in the agreement);
(b)documentary proof (receipt) of at least 30 Vioxx pills; and
(c)documentary evidence (receipt) of pills in sufficient number and proximity to the injury event to support a presumption of ingestion of Vioxx within 14 days before the claimed injury;
3.Merck does not admit that the drug caused damage nor do they admit any fault;
4.Administrators will be appointed who will examine individual cases to determine qualification based on objective, documented facts provided by claimants, including records sufficient for a scientific evaluation of independent risk factors;
5.Law firms involved in Vioxx claims must recommend enrolment in the program to 100% of their clients who allege either MI or ischemic stroke;
6.Payment obligations under the agreement will only be triggered if by March 1, 2008 (subject to extension by Merck), plaintiffs enrol in the settlement process:
(a)85% or more of all currently pending MI claims;
(b)85% or more of all currently pending ischemic stroke claims;
(c)85% or more of eligible claims involving a death; and
(d)85% or more of eligible claims alleging more than 12 months of use;
7.This agreement applies only to U.S. legal residents and those who allege that their MI or ischemic stroke occurred in the United States.
Merck will set up two funds, one for $4 billion for claims from those who experienced myocardial infarctions, and another for $850 million for claims from those who experienced ischemic strokes. The total dollar figure is fixed, even though the actual number of qualifying claimants is not. Therefore, the amount each claimant might expect to receive cannot be calculated at this time. They have stated that all other claimants will have to go to court and Merck will defend each case.
As stated above, this settlement agreement does not include Canadian claimants, and we will continue to liaise with lawyers across Canada to ensure the claims of Nova Scotians are progressed in the best way possible.