With More Than 7,800 Cases Pending, Merck Is Back On Trial — In A Fosamax® Femur Case — In Ten Days

I really don’t mean to pile on here, but the Fosamax® ONJ and femur fracture suits (now that the ENHANCE securities matter is effectively all but settled) have become Merck’s largest likely civil exposure, in the aggregate.

According to the SEC Form 10-K filed overnight, Merck is back on trial — this time in New Jersey state court, before the very able Judge Higbee, in ten days — in a case called Su v. Merck. It is a femur fracture case.

Here is the full disclosure — in context:

. . . .Fosamax

As previously disclosed, Merck is a defendant in product liability lawsuits in the United States involving Fosamax (the “Fosamax Litigation”). As of December 31, 2012, approximately 4,560 cases, which include approximately 5,140 plaintiff groups, had been filed and were pending against Merck in either federal or state court, including one case which seeks class action certification, as well as damages and/or medical monitoring. In approximately 1,230 of these actions, plaintiffs allege, among other things, that they have suffered osteonecrosis of the jaw (“ONJ”), generally subsequent to invasive dental procedures, such as tooth extraction or dental implants and/or delayed healing, in association with the use of Fosamax. In addition, plaintiffs in approximately 3,330 of these actions generally allege that they sustained femur fractures and/or other bone injuries (“Femur Fractures”) in association with the use of Fosamax.

Cases Alleging ONJ and/or Other Jaw Related Injuries

In August 2006, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (the “JPML”) ordered that certain Fosamax product liability cases pending in federal courts nationwide should be transferred and consolidated into one multidistrict litigation (the “Fosamax ONJ MDL”) for coordinated pre-trial proceedings. The Fosamax ONJ MDL has been transferred to Judge John Keenan in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. As a result of the JPML order, approximately 960 of the cases are before Judge Keenan. In the first Fosamax ONJ MDL trial, Boles v. Merck, the Fosamax ONJ MDL court declared a mistrial because the eight person jury could not reach a unanimous verdict. The Boles case was retried in June 2010 and resulted in a verdict in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $8 million. Merck filed post-trial motions seeking judgment as a matter of law or, in the alternative, a new trial. In October 2010, the court denied Merck’s post-trial motions but sua sponte ordered a remittitur reducing the verdict to $1.5 million. Plaintiff rejected the remittitur ordered by the court and requested a new trial on damages. Plaintiff and Merck subsequently entered into a confidential stipulation as to the amount of plaintiff’s damages that enabled Merck to appeal the underlying judgment, and Merck filed its appeal in the Boles case on October 18, 2012. Prior to 2013, three other cases were tried to verdict in the Fosamax ONJ MDL. Defense verdicts in favor of Merck were returned in each of those three cases. Plaintiffs have filed an appeal in two of the cases – Graves v. Merck and Secrest v. Merck. On January 30, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the judgment in Merck’s favor in Secrest.

In February 2011, Judge Keenan ordered that there will be two further bellwether trials conducted in the Fosamax ONJ MDL. Spano v. Merck and Jellema v. Merck were selected by the court to be tried in 2012, but each case was dismissed by the plaintiffs. On March 28, 2012, the court selected Scheinberg v. Merck as the next case to be tried. Trial in the Scheinberg case began on January 14, 2013 and, on February 5, 2013, the jury returned a mixed verdict finding in favor of Merck on plaintiff’s design defect claim and finding in favor of plaintiff on her failure to warn claim awarding her $285 thousand in compensatory damages.

Outside the Fosamax ONJ MDL, in Florida, Carballo v. Merck was set for trial on October 15, 2012, but plaintiff dismissed the case and refiled it in the Fosamax ONJ MDL. Anderson v. Merck had been set for trial on January 14, 2013, but plaintiff dismissed the case prior to trial.

In addition, in July 2008, an application was made by the Atlantic County Superior Court of New Jersey requesting that all of the Fosamax cases pending in New Jersey be considered for mass tort designation and centralized management before one judge in New Jersey. In October 2008, the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered that all pending and future actions filed in New Jersey arising out of the use of Fosamax and seeking damages for existing dental and jaw-related injuries, including ONJ, but not solely seeking medical monitoring, be designated as a mass tort for centralized management purposes before Judge Carol E. Higbee in Atlantic County Superior Court. As of December 31, 2012, approximately 260 ONJ cases were pending against Merck in Atlantic County, New Jersey. In July 2009, Judge Higbee entered a Case Management Order (and various amendments thereto) setting forth a schedule that contemplates completing fact and expert discovery in an initial group of cases to be reviewed for trial. In February 2011, the jury in Rosenberg v. Merck, the first trial in the New Jersey coordinated proceeding, returned a verdict in Merck’s favor. In April 2012, the jury in Sessner v. Merck, the second case tried in New Jersey, also returned a verdict in Merck’s favor. Plaintiffs have filed an appeal in both cases.

In California, the parties are reviewing the claims of two plaintiffs in the Carrie Smith, et al. v. Merck case and the claims in Pedrojetti v. Merck. The cases of one or more of these plaintiffs may be tried in 2013.

Discovery is ongoing in the Fosamax ONJ MDL litigation, the New Jersey coordinated proceeding, and the remaining jurisdictions where Fosamax ONJ cases are pending. The Company intends to defend against these lawsuits.

Cases Alleging Femur Fractures

In March 2011, Merck submitted a Motion to Transfer to the JPML seeking to have all federal cases alleging Femur Fractures consolidated into one multidistrict litigation for coordinated pre-trial proceedings. The Motion to Transfer was granted in May 2011, and all federal cases involving allegations of Femur Fracture have been or will be transferred to a multidistrict litigation in the District of New Jersey (the “Fosamax Femur Fracture MDL”). As a result of the JPML order, approximately 820 cases were pending in the Fosamax Femur Fracture MDL as of December 31, 2012. A Case Management Order has been entered that requires the parties to review 40 cases (later reduced to 33 cases). Judge Joel Pisano has selected four cases from that group to be tried as the initial bellwether cases in the Fosamax Femur Fracture MDL and has set an April 8, 2013 trial date for the first bellwether case, which will be Glynn v. Merck. The Zessin v. Merck case is set to be tried in September 2013; the Young v. Merck case is set to be tried in January 2014; and the Johnson v. Merck case is set to be tried in May 2014.

As of December 31, 2012, approximately 2,075 cases alleging Femur Fractures have been filed in New Jersey state court and are pending before Judge Higbee in Atlantic County Superior Court. The parties have selected an initial group of 30 cases to be reviewed through fact discovery. Judge Higbee has set March 11, 2013 as the date for the first trial of the New Jersey state Femur Fracture cases, which will be Su v. Merck.

As of December 31, 2012, approximately 420 cases alleging Femur Fractures have been filed in California state court. A petition was filed seeking to coordinate all Femur Fracture cases filed in California state court before a single judge in Orange County, California. The petition was granted and Judge Steven Perk is now presiding over the coordinated proceedings. No scheduling order has yet been entered.

Additionally, there are eight Femur Fracture cases pending in other state courts. A trial date has been set for August 12, 2013 for the Barnes v. Merck case pending in Alabama state court.

Discovery is ongoing in the Fosamax Femur Fracture MDL and in state courts where Femur Fracture cases are pending and the Company intends to defend against these lawsuits. . . .

We will keep you informed as Su v. Merck progresses.

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