Judge Won't Delay Vioxx Trial

GENERIC Merck Vioxx trial gavel
AP / ABC News
A judge on Tuesday declined to postpone the nation's first state wrongful death trial related to the painkiller Vioxx because he said he would not assume potential jurors were biased by pretrial publicity.

But state District Judge Ben Hardin also told lawyers for Merck & Co., the manufacturer of Vioxx, that he would examine questionnaires answered by the pool of 100 potential jurors next week before outright rejecting Merck's request for a delay.

Merck asked for a two-month delay to allow for a "cooling off" period for any bias that could taint a jury pool arising from news coverage of a lawsuit Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed last week against the drug maker.

Abbott alleges in the $250 million lawsuit that Merck defrauded Texans by representing Vioxx as safe when pushing for it to be included on the state's list of medicines approved for Medicaid.

Merck lawyer Richard Josephson said Abbott's lawsuit makes all Texas taxpayers potential parties to litigation, which could breed bias.

"It's difficult to see how jurors who hear that could be impartial when the attorney general is standing up and saying he's already made a decision that Merck is guilty," Josephson said.

Merck's motion also noted that a law firm which helped the attorney general's office on the lawsuit represents at least six plaintiffs suing the company.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for