Australian judge kills Merck Vioxx class action settlement

A federal judge in Australia has put the kibosh on a half-million-dollar settlement over ill effects of Merck's ($MRK) painkiller Vioxx, a drug that has spawned billions of dollars in litigation. Justice Christopher Jessup said the agreement may not be fair to plaintiffs that had stronger claims against the drugmaker. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the judge said, "I don't just consider myself to be a street sweeper. I want to know what's really lying around and whether people's interests or rights are being affected." The proposed settlement would have ended class action litigation involving 1,700 patients. The settlement would have paid a maximum of $2,000 to living plaintiffs and $1,500 to the families of those who are dead. Merck was deluged with litigation after it pulled Vioxx off the market because of mounting evidence it could trigger heart attacks and strokes. In the U.S. the company established a $4.85 billion settlement fund to cover most of the plaintiffs there. Story | More