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Merck on the road to settling business litigation

Protecting the reputation of a business, in addition to its finances, is an important aspect of managing a successful company. If consumers and clients have a negative association with a brand or company name, business and the bottom line can suffer. Navigating business litigation involving product liability can be a tricky road for Massachusetts companies but having proper legal representation may make a big difference.

Health care industry giant Merck & Co announced on Feb. 7 that it is paying out $100 million to resolve lawsuits across the United States claiming the company did not properly acknowledge the health risks related to NuvaRing, an intrauterine contraceptive device. The product has been available to U.S. women since 2001 and has been linked to an increased risk of blood clots, which can result in a stroke, a heart attack or death. The contraceptive device uses estrogen and progestin, the same hormones found in most birth control pills.

Under the agreement, Merck denies any fault, but the agreement must be accepted by at least 95 percent of the 3,800 patients involved in the federal and state lawsuits. The settlement was in negotiations for almost a year, and representation for the plaintiffs said that the settlement was "an outstanding result."

The $100 million payout may likely also be considered a win for the company, which is the second-biggest drug manufacturer in the United States. Bayer AG, a German company involved in litigation of the contraceptives Yaz and Yazmin, paid out much more than that -- almost $1.6 billion -- to settle its lawsuits last year. For companies facing similar situations, discussing the particulars with someone knowledgeable about business law can be the first step in formulating a plan.

Source: Reuters, "Merck to pay $100 million in NuvaRing contraceptive settlement" Ransdell Pierson and Jessica Dye, Feb. 07, 2014

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