Plaintiff's attorney in Vioxx trial grills potential jurors

Steve Gonzalez Feb. 27, 2007, 6:52am

Plaintiff's attorney Mikal C. Watts of Corpus Christi, Texas told potential Vioxx jurors this morning that he will be asking for an award of "tens of millions of dollars" for his client.

"This is a serious lawsuit, seeking serious damages," Watts told a panel of 73 potential jurors during a two-hour "voir-dire" session.

Representing Frank Schwaller who alleges his 52-year-old wife died suddenly after using Vioxx, Watts also informed the panel that the deceased was morbidly obese, had high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Merck defense attorney Dan Ball of Bryan Cave will have his turn at questioning potential jurors this afternoon.

Opening arguments are expected to begin Wednesday morning.

Watts also told the panel that Merck sold the prescription drug to people with all the health risk factors Patricia Schwaller had, but never included them in clinical studies.

"Does somebody who is 5'2" and 280 pounds have the same right to information from drug companies as someone who is not?"

All the jurors responded in the affirmative.

Watts asked jurors if they are against awarding a large verdict in a civil case. Twenty-two people responded they were.

In asking jurors if they thought there were too many frivolous lawsuits only seven out of 73 thought lawsuit abuse was not a problem.

About 20 percent of the jurors said they could put a dollar amount on a life.

Over half had suffered a heart attack or had a close family member who did.

Watts held up for jurors the latest edition of the Record newspaper which provided up-to-date coverage of the case.

He told the jurors that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce owned the paper and that it is the newspaper's job "to spin" the case for Merck.

Watts asked who among the panel has worked for large companies:

  • 53 work for companies that employ more than 100 persons
  • 32 work for companies that employ more than 1,000
  • 12 work for companies that employ more than 10,000
  • Seven work for companies that employ more than 50,000

    Twenty-eight of the jurors claim they suffer from high blood pressure or have a close family member who does.

    Eight said they are diabetic or have a family member who suffers from diabetes.

    Fourteen claim they either suffer from obesity or have a family who does.

    Thirty five members on the panel said they believe a person's lifestyle is responsible for obesity and 29 thought it was hereditary.

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    1 Metropolitan Square
    St. Louis, MO 63102

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