Legal Ethics

Vioxx Settlement Amended to Allow Attorney Advice to Clients

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Attorneys overseeing a proposed $4.85 billion settlement with Merck & Co. over its withdrawn Vioxx drug have reportedly amended a controversial provision that could have required some plaintiffs’ lawyers to advise all or none of their clients to take the deal.

Initially, some attorneys expressed concern about language barring lawyers whose clients participate in the settlement from representing those who opt out. That, the plaintiffs’ lawyers contended, could interfere with their independent professional judgment, potentially conflicting them out of some representations, as discussed in an earlier post.

But now the lead lawyers have amended the November 2007 pact to direct attorneys to exercise their “independent judgment in the best interests of each client individually before recommending enrollment in the program,” reports the Associated Press.

“I’m satisfied that nothing in the agreement imposes on a lawyer any impermissible restriction on the practice of law,” U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon told lawyers for both sides today during a New Orleans hearing.

At least 85 percent of those who claim the painkiller caused their heart attacks or strokes must accept the Vioxx deal by Feb. 29, if it is to proceed, another post explains.

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