Merck Did Recently Win — On Summary Judgment — In A NJ State Court NuvaRing® Bellwether

This products liability litigation good news for Merck (as the successor to legacy Organon and legacy Schering-Plough) regarding NuvaRingTM comes to us tonight from the usually reliable Law360 — so I’ll take it on faith (as a $$ subscription is required):

. . . .A New Jersey state judge on Thursday tossed seven bellwether cases over injuries allegedly caused by a Merck & Co. Inc. subsidiary’s NuvaRing contraceptive, a devastating ruling that will force plaintiffs in upcoming multidistrict litigation to retool their argument on how the drug harmed them.

In granting summary judgment to Merck and Organon USA Inc., Judge Brian Martinotti found that the plaintiffs in a first round of bellwethers had failed to prove NuvaRing caused their injuries. . .

I’ve offered very little day to day coverage of the state court actions, as it is pretty difficult to follow New Jersey state court actions remotely, online. The New Jersey state courts just aren’t nearly as digitized as the federal ones. Even so, I am certain that the win for Merck isn’t just a rumor piece.

Make of it what you will, though — as there are still some 200 similar cases pending in the state courts of New Jersey — and over 1,315 in the federal District Court, in the Eastern District of Missouri — where the MDL, or federal multi-district litigation is being heard, by the very capable Judge Rodney Sippel. Judge Sippel has thus far not ruled to categorically exclude various sorts of expert opinion testimony the plaintiffs see as crucial to their cases — so do stay tuned. Why?

Well, the same sort of a summary judgment motion as the one just granted in New Jersey is pending in the federal MDL, and should be heard “on the merits” in late Spring 2013, according to page 110 of the SEC Form 10-K filed by Merck a few weeks ago. The first trial in the federal MDL is presently set for October 21, 2013.

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