Bilbrey's Vioxx action moved to federal court

By Steve Gonzalez | Dec 1, 2004

Madison County's first class action suit against Merck & Co.'s Vioxx, filed by the mother of Edwardsville personal injury attorney Mike Bilbrey, was removed to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

Patricia Bilbrey of Glen Carbon, on behalf of the class, sued Merck & Co. Oct. 5, fives days after the drug maker pulled the arthritis pain reliever from the market.

Bilbrey's co-counsel, Houston attorney Scott Hendler, said a remand back to Madison County is being sought.

“The class representative in this case is a resident of Madison County," Hendler said. "And we expect that the federal court will remand the case to the state court which is the proper venue.”

Merck’s attorney, Stephen G. Strauss of Bryan Cave LLP in St. Louis, filed notice of removal for his client pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1332, 1441, and 1446 on Nov 15.

On Oct. 21 Merck filed a motion for coordinated pre-trial proceedings with the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to coordinate all cases involving Vioxx pending in federal courts in a single district court.

The pending cases, while involving different and distinct facts, raise certain overlapping factual issues and allege similar legal theories, according to Strauss, who expects motions to be heard by the JPML in January.

Strauss states in the brief that in addition to Merck’s motion, seven different plaintiff's counsels have also filed papers with the JPML seeking multi-district litigation coordination of their Vioxx cases.

Bilbrey alleged Merck concealed and misrepresented the risks of taking Vioxx and that it was not superior to other safer and less expensive pain relievers.

Merck & Co. has plans to remove all cases to the federal court when cases are filed in state courts.

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