Jury selection and opening statements have now been completed in the trial of Refik Kozic v. Merck, the first Vioxx case to proceed to trial in the State of Florida. Refik Kozic, a current resident of Jacksonville and a former long-term resident of Tampa, filed his lawsuit against Merck in 2003 for injuries relating to the heart attack that he suffered after ingesting Vioxx daily for 9 weeks. Judge William P. Levens is presiding over the trial, which is anticipated to last for another 2 1/2 weeks. The Plaintiff’s trial team includes Jim Clark and Don Greiwe of Alley, Clark, Greiwe & Fulmer in Tampa and Fred Levin, Troy Rafferty and Pete Kaufman of Levin, Papantonio in Pensacola.
Refik Kozic is popular former soccer player with the Tampa Bay Rowdies and New York Cosmos. He retired from professional sports in the 1980s, but continued to play and coach soccer in the Tampa Bay Area for a number of years. Refik started taking Vioxx in February of 2001 due to knee pain stemming from old soccer-related injuries. Nine weeks later, Mr. Kozic suffered a significant heart attack due to a large blood clot in his heart and underwent surgery to place a metal stent in one of his arteries.
Mr. Kozic filed suit against Merck for his injuries and damages related to his heart attack. His lawsuit includes claims relating to the negligent and defective design, manufacture, and marketing of Vioxx. Also, the court has permitted Mr. Kozic to also bring a claim for punitive damages against Merck.
Vioxx was withdrawn from the market in 2004 after several studies noted a significantly increased risk of heart attacks and strokes in patients using the drug. Currently, there are nearly 40,000 lawsuits pending against Merck in state and federal courts across the country. Most of the claims filed by Floridians who suffered heart attacks or strokes after taking Vioxx are pending in the multi-district litigation proceedings in New Orleans. It is anticipated that many of these cases will be returned to local Florida jurisdictions and set for trials either later this year or in 2008.