Global Processing

Merck blocks ethics expert at hearing

September 12, 2005

A New Jersey judge agreed Thursday, September 8 to bar an expert on business ethics from testifying on behalf of a man who blames his heart attack on the painkiller Vioxx, the Associated Press reports. Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee, who will preside over the man''s product liability case against Merck & Co. beginning the week of September 12, granted Merck''s request to keep W. Michael Hoffman from taking the stand after lawyers for the drug maker said his testimony would be subjective, potentially confusing for jurors and violate court rules that limit expert testimony to scientific and technical topics. But she rejected Merck''s motions to limit the testimony of three other experts who will testify, saying they can help jurors understand the case brought by Frederick Humeston, 60, of Boise, Idaho, a Vietnam veteran who suffered a heart attack less than two months after he began taking the drug to ease pain from a war wound. Jury selection begins Monday in the trial, the first Vioxx case to go to trial since a Texas jury awarded $253.4 million last month to the family of a Wal-Mart produce manager who died after taking the drug. Vioxx was taken off the market last September.