I was trying to be creative with my Coppertone blog title. The real story (Reuters) is that Merck has agreed to settle a decade old class-action suit over allegations that the company had made false claims about its Coppertone sunscreen products.
Merck purchased the Coppertone franchise in 2009, so it knew that it was taking on this litigation. It now has agreed to pay between 3 and 10 million to settle the claims that were previously brought against Coppertone, but does so with the standard settlement language of “denied any wrongdoing or liability”.
The lawsuit had been brought on behalf of several consumers. The lawsuit claimed that Coppertone exaggerated claims about its sunblock sprays and lotions. As part of the settlement, Merck agrees that Coppertone products that are manufactured after June 22,, 2012 will not use the terms “sunblock”, “waterproof”, “sweatproof”, “all day”, and/or “all day protection” in the label, or in the advertising or marketing of its sunblock products.
Those that purchased Coppertone products during the class settlement period are able to claim a refund of $1.50 per purchase. As to the description of the product, I am still wondering what they will now market. How does this sound, “Product to be used for fun at the beach… that’s all” or “How about some Coppertone that doesn’t guarantee”?
For pic o’ day, my mom sent me this one. Good voice marketing!
The Judge basically told the plaintiff’s lawyer that he needed to make a choice and also bring his checkbook. A Federal Court Judge in New York, Judge Keenan, had just presided over the first bellwether Fosamax trial. The jury returned a verdict of 8 million dollars against Merck.
Fosamax is an osteoporosis drug that is supposed to help users fight bone density problems. Instead, the side effects are allegedly causing severe jaw fractures. This New York jury obviously connected this drug to that symptom.
The defense moved to have the verdict set aside. One of the primary arguments related to remarks that the plaintiff’s attorney made in closing arguments. The Judge had previously stated that in 80 years of living, he had never seen more outrageous behaviour in his life.
After considering the motion to set aside the verdict, the Judge decided that even though he agreed that the plaintiff’s “conduct fell far shy of professional conduct”, that he did not believe that it impacted the jury verdict.
After considering all the evidence and the resulting verdict, the Judge did feel that the verdict was too large and offered the plaintiff a choice. Either accept a reduction (remittitur) to a 1.5 million verdict, or choose a mistrial and retry the case. The first time that the case was tried, it was declared a mistrial.
In addition, as to the conduct of the plaintiff’s lawyer, the Judge sanctioned him $2500. However he did not forward a complaint to the Committee on Lawyer discipline; So apparently, the Judge did not think that it warranted a professional sanction. Now, plaintiff has to decide whether to spend the money to try it again or accept the Judges reduction. That obviously would not preclude Merck from appealing anyway.
Maybe it is too hot to blog but I wanted to mention some “goings on” in our Pharmaceutical practice. We have an upcoming trial in Philadelphia in our hormone therapy litigation. Wyeth is listed as the defendant, but Pfizer bought them at the end of 2009. At this point, I expect that the trial will go forward. It involves one of our Virginia clients. In addition, the Philadelphia Judge will soon be ruling on combining plaintiffs in one trial. That would move the litigation forward and create less expense for each of our clients.
We are still completing disbursements to our Vioxx clients. Under the original terms of the settlement, the disbursements are in waves, based on the type of injury that was suffered. In addition, Merck paid, subject to approval of the Judge, of each of the costs and fees.
That’s a quick summary of a couple of the drug litigation course of events. Of course, we are always on the look out for other possible drugs that may be causing injury. Sometimes, a prospective client will send me information of an injury that they believe was caused by some prescription. That’s why, I have titled this “On the Lookout” because I believe that people calling to report bad drugs have made our medications safer and the FDA more aware. We all benefit when people call.