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Jul 23, 2007
 |  BioCentury  |  Politics, Policy & Law

The old razzle dazzle

Mark Lanier has become a folk hero to pharmaceutical tort lawyers by winning threeVioxx rofecoxib cases against Merck & Co. Inc.

Lanier's weekday courtroom demeanor reflects his weekend job as a Baptist preacher. Speaking at a conference on Avandia litigation in Chicago on July 13, Lanier demonstrated how he mixes legal erudition, a folksy style, and religious fervor to convince juries that corporations have wronged his clients.

Describing how he would approach an Avandia case, Lanier said he would fill in two columns on a piece of paper, one with "the good facts that especially help me in my case" and another with "the bad facts that don't help me" (see "Building a Case," A7).

Before accepting the case, Lanier said he would be sure that he had a good, likeable client. "I don't ever want to have a loser as a plaintiff," he said, because "jurors give good verdicts to good people."

He would want to be sure that the client had "worked to try to be healthy," so GlaxoSmithKline plc (LSE:GSK; GSK, London, U.K.), which manufactures Avandia rosiglitazone, couldn't point to his or her negligence as the cause of the injury.

A grievous injury would be another criterion for accepting a case.

The Avandia situation contains the essence of a failure-to-warn case, according to Lanier.

"The company had facts about heart attacks that it did not tell," he told the audience of tort lawyers. "The company made a pointed decision not to tell all it knew about heart risks. The company ignored the heart risks and went to the bank."

Lanier said he would craft all of the important facts about Avandia,...

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