A judge Thursday admonished a lawyer for Merck & Co. Inc. for violating her earlier instructions to avoid negative comments about attorneys, and warned of “repercussions” — including a possible mistrial — if such conduct continued.
Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee, who is overseeing a Vioxx product liability trial in Atlantic City that got under way this week, said that lawyers comments about one another risked prejudicing the jury.
“It is simply playing to the bias of jurors. There is a certain perception that there are too many lawsuits, and that it is causing society some problems,” Higbee said angrily.
In opening statements to jurors on Wednesday, Merck lawyer Diane Sullivan made several comments about attorneys, including a remark that they were “surrounding” plaintiff Frederick Humeston.
Humeston, a 60-year-old postal worker and Vietnam War veteran, is suing Merck (Research), blaming the drug company’s blockbuster painkiller Vioxx for his 2001 heart attack.