Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Jury and the Modern Complex Civil Litigation

The Vioxx cases so far have demonstrated many of the qualities and concerns of the jury in our civil justice system. Consider the following stories. All articles linked to are intended for the educational use of Boalt Hall civil procedure students only (if there are any problems, please contact tfletcher[at]

Timeline of Vioxx problems, cases (link)

The New Jersey case:

Jury finds Merck not liable (link)

Juries in New Jersey have the ability to submit questions to the witnesses. This is not normal in American courts (but should it be?) and has had a huge impact on this trial. (link)

The Texas case:

The jury in Texas acted quite differently than the one in New Jersey, and went so far as to tell reporters after the trial that they "sent a message" with their verdict. Pay attention to what happened in voir dire too. (link)

If you didn't get to the talk on Patent Trolls provided by an attorney from Baker Botts this week, the topic of Texas juries again came up. According to the guest speaker, "patent trolls" love filing lawsuits in the Eastern District of Texas. It intimidates international defendants and they feel like they draw a more sympathetic jury in cities like Tyler or Marshall than in San Jose or Boston.

Avoiding federal court:

Federal Vioxx cases were consolidated before a multi-distrcit litigation panel (MDL panel). The federal courts use these to manage enormously complex civil cases to allow one judge to become an expert in one series of facts and handle all the cases arising from them. Obviously, this can ruin a plaintiff's plan to find a friendly forum, and witness the difference between a New Jersey court and a Texas one. (link)

And of course, if you want to know more, go to LexisNexis, go to Research, go to Legal News, choose Legal News (other), and then Legal News, Current. Once there, I rant my searches with variants on vioxx and atleast4(jury) and [other terms I was interested in like texas, questions, etc.]. I'm also excited to chat about these cases [disclosure: I will be working for one of Merck's defense attorneys this coming summer].


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