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Potential New Orleans jurors get Vioxx retrial notices

January 23, 2006

Although New Orleans has fewer than half the residents it did before Hurricane Katrina, the judge hearing the first federal Vioxx trial has told attorneys he does not expect any problems finding a jury to retry that case, the Associated Press reports. Judge Eldon E. Fallon told attorneys that notices were sent to 200 potential jurors, and only four replied that they could not attend on the scheduled dates, according to Phil Wittmann, lead attorney for Merck & Co. The Eastern District of Louisiana is sending more notices than usual to registered voters, to make sure enough notices get through even if some are sent to empty houses or get lost in the mail. Forty-one of 80 people answered notices for the first case tried after the storm — a criminal case — Clerk Loretta Whyte said. She said 43 notices were sent for the second — a civil trial — and 27 came to court. A second trial is needed in the Vioxx case because the first, held in Houston, ended with a hung jury. Jurors told The Associated Press eight of the nine jurors did not consider the company responsible for the heart attack that killed Richard "Dicky" Irvin in 2001, after he had taken the drug for about a month. A 9-0 vote was needed for a verdict. Vioxx was a $2.5 billion product, taken by about 20 million people, before Merck pulled it from the market in 2004 because a study showed it could double risk of heart attack or stroke if taken for 18 months or longer.