In a statement released on Pharmaceutical Online, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Victoria Chaney struck down a request to certify a class of consumers and insurers seeking reimbursement from drug manufacturer Merck over costs of VIOXX®. The ruling dashes the hopes of plaintiffs and insurance companies who sought the ability to conduct class-action suits seeking compensation for the pain medication’s tendency to increase the risk of heart attacks or strokes among long-term, high-dosage users.
At the heart of the ruling is the concept of legal and factual similarity between the claims. According to Judge Chaney, not enough similarity exists among the members of the class. Her ruling states that each plaintiff would need to show damages and other facts in the case on an individual basis. As a result, treating the plaintiffs as a class would offer limited benefits in reducing the time and cost of litigation, and the emphasis of a class-action case would focus on the differences between plaintiffs rather than on the similarities.
Class-action lawsuits are a valuable legal recourse for consumers. By combining hundreds or even thousands of claims into a single lawsuit, everyday citizens can make themselves heard. Their combined voices force big companies to listen, and to make amends when large scale malfeasance has deprived ordinary people of their health and savings.