Wednesday, January 24, 2007
In a reprise of their clashes from the first Humeston trial in 2005, New Jersey Judge Carol Higbee scolded Merck's lead trial counsel Diane Sullivan for unprofessional behavior during opening statements in the consolidated Humeston and Hermans Vioxx trial that began this week in Atlantic City. Here's an excerpt from yesterday's report by David Voreacos of Bloomberg -- Merck Lawyer Admonished for Arguments in Vioxx Trial:
Merck & Co.'s lead attorney at a New Jersey trial over its Vioxx painkiller acted unethically and unprofessionally in court yesterday during her opening statements, the judge said.
Attorney Diane Sullivan repeatedly violated pre-trial orders on what statements were allowed during the first phase of a trial over whether Vioxx caused the heart attacks of two men, Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee said today outside the jury's presence. Sullivan's violations included talking about Merck's cancer research and noting the home states of the men, Higbee said.
"It is unprofessional, it is unethical, and it is contemptuous of this court,'' Higbee said in New Jersey state court in Atlantic City. "She deliberately violated my orders on repeated occasions. I am not going to deal with this kind of unprofessionalism. I am not going to let it taint this trial.''
Among other things, Judge Higbee admonished Sullivan for showing the jury a slide of plaintiff's lawyer Mark Lanier that differed from the photo the judge had approved, and for impermissibly suggesting to the jury that Merck might sell Vioxx again.