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In the latest Vioxx trial, a Madison County jury found in favor of Merck & Co. after deliberating for more than 6 hours over the course of two days. The jury members rejected Patty Schwaller widower’s claim that Merck & Co. was to blame for his wife’s sudden death linked to cardiovascular side effects.

In siding with Merck, the jury concluded that Vioxx was not a “proximate cause” in the death of Patty Schwaller, who had taken the drug for about 20 months before suddenly collapsing and dying in her Granite City home.

Merck, which pulled Vioxx off the market in 2004 after its research showed it increased the risk of heart attacks and strokes, celebrated its 10th victory in 15 cases that have been tried in the mushrooming litigation over Vioxx. It was the first trial in the Midwest and had been conducted in a county known for large awards favoring plaintiffs.

Merck isn’t out of the woods. The company, based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., has been deluged with more than 27,000 personal injury lawsuits and another 265 potential class-action lawsuits alleging harm from Vioxx. The company has reserved $1.64 billion in its Vioxx legal defense fund and said again Tuesday it plans to fight each lawsuit.

Attorneys for the plaintiff’s estate are planning an immediate appeal to contest not on the way the trial was conducted but also to contest various other legal matters that are believed to have been reversible errors. This defense verdict is in stark contrast to a Plaintiff’s verdict of $47.5 million earlier this month against Vioxx and it manufacturer Merck & Co. wherein it was said Merck & Co. failed to warn of the cardiovascular risks and dangers associated with Vioxx.

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