The lead lawyer who won a defense verdict for Merck & Co. last week after a contentious eight-week trial in Atlantic City, N.J., in the second Vioxx case said her trial team’s success lay in letting the jury see “the kind of people Merck’s scientists and doctors really are.”
Diane P. Sullivan, a veteran litigation partner in Dechert’s mass torts and products liability group in the firm’s Princeton, N.J., office, parried questions concerning her reportedly fiery demeanor in court with both the bench and her co-counsel, characterizing it as passion in support of her client.
At one point, Sullivan drew a reprimand from Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Carol E. Higbee for violating an order barring comments about lawyers in front of the jury. Later in the trial, she cursed at her co-counsel.
“I like to try to consider myself passionate in the defense of the client I represent,” Sullivan said, adding that her litigation style consists of bringing “a common-sense, basic style to the courtroom that juries hopefully understand.”
She said she appreciates that Higbee, who oversees New Jersey’s Vioxx docket of more than 3,000 cases, faced a difficult task trying the first case of her first mass tort. Sullivan will almost certainly appear before Higbee again.