Responsibilities Include Deciding Claimant Appeals
NEW YORK, March 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following statement is from Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP and Herman Herman Katz & Cotlar, LLP:
United States District Judge Eldon E. Fallon met this week with the newly appointed Special Master and Deputy Special Masters who will decide any appeals taken from the findings of the Claims Administrator permitted under the resolution program for Vioxx product liability litigation in the United States, and will conduct hearings and make findings with respect to issues of alleged fraud that may arise with respect to the program.
Judge Fallon appointed as Special Master, Patrick A. Juneau, a Louisiana lawyer who has served as a mediator in more than 2,000 cases. Judge Fallon appointed as Deputy Special Masters retired California appellate Justice John K. Trotter and retired New Jersey Superior Court Judge Marina Corodemus. The Deputy Special Masters were selected based on their respective national experience in complex litigation including mass torts, their reputations in handling the adjudication of difficult issues in mass tort litigation, and recommendations from Judge Carol Higbee, who oversees the Vioxx cases in New Jersey state court, and Judge Victoria Chaney, who oversees the Vioxx cases in California state court.
"The Special Master and Deputies are an important part of the program because they will provide review and oversight to ensure that the program is administered fairly," said Ted Mayer, of Hughes Hubbard & Reed, one of Merck's coordinating defense counsel. "The three Masters together bring broad and deep legal experience. The program will be stronger because of their participation."
"The responsibility of the Masters will be to help ensure that each plaintiff's claim is fairly considered on an individual basis," said Russ Herman, Liaison Counsel in the federal multidistrict VIOXX litigation and Chair of the Plaintiffs' Negotiating Committee. "All three of the Masters have extensive experience in mediation that makes them the right people for this assignment."
According to the Settlement Agreement, the Special Master and Deputy Special Masters are responsible for deciding any appeals from determinations by the Claims Administrator of 1) qualification of claimants for payment from the resolution fund pursuant to the objective "gates" for admission into the program and 2) individual claim valuation based on the defined criteria set forth in the Settlement Agreement. The Masters will also assign valuation scores to qualifying claimants at the basic level of valuation who reject the fixed payment offered under the program. In addition, the Masters will conduct hearings, and make findings, if any suspicion of fraud or deception by claimants or their counsel in the submission of claims surfaces during claims processing or the audits contemplated under the Agreement.
Patrick A. Juneau has served as a court-appointed Special Master in numerous federal and state cases, including product liability class actions and toxic tort litigation. He is also a charter member of the Academy of Court Appointed Masters. Mr. Juneau, who leads the Juneau Law Firm in Lafayette, Louisiana, has tried over 100 civil lawsuits to conclusion.
The Honorable John K. Trotter served as a Pro-Tem Justice of the California Supreme Court in 1983 and Presiding Justice of the Fourth District of the California Court of Appeal from 1982 until his retirement in 1987. He has since gained a reputation as one of the country's leading experts in Alternative Dispute Resolution and has worked as a Special Master in pharmaceutical litigations involving Zyprexa, Baycol, and Rezulin.
The Honorable Marina Corodemus served as a trial judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey for over a decade. During her tenure, the New Jersey Supreme Court appointed her as a Mass Tort Judge to resolve the state's most challenging class action and mass tort litigations. Since her retirement from the court, Judge Corodemus has practiced at Corodemus and Corodemus LLC in Iselin, New Jersey, where she heads the Alternative Dispute Resolution department.
The resolution program for VIOXX claims in the United States, which was announced on November 9, 2007, is moving forward. Merck & Co., Inc., said on March 3, 2008, that more than 44,000 of the approximately 47,000 individuals who registered eligible injuries have submitted some or all of the materials required for enrollment that could qualify them for an interim payment in the program to resolve state and federal myocardial infarction (MI) and ischemic stroke (IS) claims filed against the Company in the United States.
If all of these eligible submissions are completed in accordance with the Settlement Agreement, this would represent more than 93 percent of the eligible MI and IS claims previously registered with the program.
Currently, Merck is working with the Claims Administrator to examine the registration and enrollment materials that have been received and continue to come in for interim payments. There is a considerable amount of documentation that has to be reviewed before the definitive determination can be made that the thresholds have been met.
Merck is confident that 85% thresholds will be met and exceeded, which will obligate the Company to pay $4.85 billion into the resolution fund.
Claimants who submitted initial enrollment materials by February 29 have until March 31 to complete their enrollment for interim payments. Interim payments could begin as early as August. Eligible claimants who do not qualify for interim payments may still enroll in the resolution program if the claims were filed or tolled prior to Nov. 9, 2007 and their claims will be counted toward the participation thresholds as provided by the agreements. The current deadline for enrollment is May 1.
This press release contains "forward-looking statements" as that term is defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements are based on management's current expectations and involve risks and uncertainties, which may cause results to differ materially from those set forth in the statements. The forward-looking statements may include statements regarding product development, product potential or financial performance. No forward-looking statement can be guaranteed and actual results may differ materially from those projected. Merck and the law firms issuing this statement undertake no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise. Forward-looking statements in this press release should be evaluated together with the many uncertainties that affect Merck's business, particularly those mentioned in the risk factors and cautionary statements in Item 1A of Merck's Form 10-K for the year ended Dec. 31, 2007, and in its periodic reports on Form 10-Q and current reports on Form 8-K, if any, which the Company incorporates by reference.
|SOURCE Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP and Herman Herman Katz & Cotlar,LLP
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