Unions sue over Vioxx settlement

Chris Rizo Jun. 11, 2008, 7:39am

NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - Two of the nation's most powerful unions have sued six law firms for their handling of litigation against Vioxx maker Merck & Co. Inc.

The Service Employees International Union and the Teamsters Union filed the lawsuit in New York federal court.

Vioxx was taken off the market in September 2004, after the once-popular pain medication was found to increase the risk of stroke and heart attack.

The unions claim the Nov. 2007 settlement of the liability class action suit, in which Merck was held harmless, failed to provide money for reimbursements to lien rights of Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) health plans.

ERISA, enacted in 1974, aimes to protect the interests of employee benefit plan participants and their beneficiaries by requiring the disclosure to them of financial and other information concerning the plan.

The complaint says that the $4.85 billion that Merck has agreed to place in a settlement account to pay claimants who say they were harmed by Vioxx will be distributed by a secret formula that violates the ERISA provisions.

If the court does not grant an injunction, the unions' lawsuit says the plaintiffs will be "irreparably harmed."

Defendants in the case are: BrownGreer PLC; Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles PC; Blizzard, McCarthy & Nabers LLP; Girardi and Keese; Herman, Herman, Katz & Cotlar LLP; and Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman.

The lawsuit was filed last week on behalf of the unions by the New Orleans, La., law firm of King, Krebs & Jurgens.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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