Plaintiffs mixed up in suit brought by high volume filer

Steve Gonzalez Apr. 27, 2006, 4:26am

John Driscoll

Days before and after a Texas jury ordered Merck to pay $32 million in damages for the Vioxx-related death of a 71-year-old man, similar lawsuits continued to pour into Metro-East courts.

Represented by frequent filer attorney John Driscoll of Brown & Crouppen in St. Louis, Susan Brown filed suit April 19 and Barbara Siuba filed suit April 24 in St. Clair County Circuit Court. They claim heart-related injuries from taking the arthritis pain-relieving drug Vioxx.

Due to the great volume of work brought by Driscoll -- he's represented dozens of plaintiffs in St. Clair and Madison County Vioxx personal injury lawsuits -- occasionally plaintiff names are mixed up in the lawsuit title and body of the complaint.

In Siuba's recent complaint, a plaintiff named Mary Lahey is referred to as the damaged party. But Lahey, age 61, is Driscoll's client who sued Merck in February.

Siuba's complaint indicates the plaintiff is a 53-year-old who suffered a Vioxx-related stroke.

Brown claims Vioxx is responsible for the heart attack she suffered at age 46.

The Texas jury found Merck liable April 21 for the death of Leonel Garza who had a heart attack a month after he took the pain reliever. Because of punitive damage caps in Texas, the award to Garza's family will likely be reduced.

Several verdicts in Vioxx trials across the country have produced mixed results, some in favor and some against Merck.

The Texas trial was the sixth case of nearly 12,000 cases filed against Merck. So far Merck is 50-50, losing three and winning three. It is planning to appeal all of the verdicts thus far.

As in most Vioxx lawsuits that have been filed in St. Clair and Madison County courts -- and elsewhere-- Brooks and Siuba claim that Vioxx is defectively designed, inadequately tested, dangerous to human health and lacked proper warnings regarding the dangers associated with its use.

When Vioxx was manufactured and sold it was defective in design and formulation, making use of the product more dangerous than other drugs for pain relief, the complaints state.

The complaints also allege that Vioxx subjected users to risks of heart attacks, strokes and other illnesses.

The plaintiffs claim they were unaware of the "dangerous propensities" of the product until well after they used the drug and sustained heart-related illnesses, which required hospitalization.

Vioxx was removed from the drug market on Sept. 30, 2004, because a study indicated it could cause cardiac problems. It is the brand name of rofecoxib, a cox-2 inhibitor and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID).

Brooks and Siuba claim that Merck did not accurately reflect the symptoms, type, scope, or severity of the side effects and claims Merck failed to perform adequate testing prior to marketing Vioxx.

They also Merck violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act -- deceiving them and causing them to suffer personal physical injury and actual damages.

In addition to physical injury, plaintiffs also claim they spent money for the purchase of a medicine that was allegedly unreasonably dangerous.

In the recent Texas case, Vioxx was found to greatly increase the risk of heart attacks in people who took the painkiller for 18 months or longer.

In the nation's first Vioxx trial, a different Texas jury recently awarded more than $250 million to a consumer's widow, but the whopping judgment was whittled down because of the state's cap on damages law.

The first known trial in the Metro-East is Dick Donohoo's suit in Madison County. It is scheduled for the spring of 2007.

He claims he suffered a heart attack when he was 67, and that the Vioxx was to blame.

06 L 240
06 L 254 (20th Circuit)

More News