Merck Settles All NuvaRing Birth Control Injury Cases For $100 Million

HACKENSACK, N.J. — (Mealey’s) Merck & Co. subsidiary Organon has agreed to a $100 million nationwide settlement of all claims alleging blood clot injuries from the NuvaRing contraceptive device, according to a master settlement agreement filed Feb. 7 in a New Jersey and a federal court (In Re:  NuvaRing Litigation, No. 284, N.J. Super., Bergen Co.; In Re: NuvaRing Products Liability Litigation, MDL Docket No. 1964, No. 4:08-md-1964, E.D. Mo.). 

(Master settlement agreement available.  Document #28-140220-001P.

The opt-in settlement will cover claims for injury occurring prior to Feb. 7, 2014.  Claims must be filed by March 20, 2014. 

According to a statement by Judge Brian R. Martinotti of the Bergen County, N.J., Superior Court, about 3,800 filed and unfiled NuvaRing claims will be covered by the settlement. 

Committee Determines Value 

A committee of plaintiffs’ counsel will determine individual claim values.  BrownGreer PLC of Richmond, Va., will serve as claims administrator. 

Third-party claims and liens by Medicare, Medicaid or health insurers are the responsibility of each claimant.  Likewise, attorney liens are the responsibility of claimants. 

There is no guarantee that every claimant will be eligible to receive compensation. 

Organon has the right to audit any one claim or groups of claims. 

95 Percent Participation Rate Needed 

Organon has the right to walk away from the settlement if less than 95 percent of eligible claimants fail to opt into the NuvaRing Resolution Program. 

Retired Illinois Circuit Court Judge Daniel J. Stack will be appointed special master.  New Jersey law will govern the settlement. 

The special master will hear appeals of decisions by the claims administrator.  His decisions will be final, binding and nonappealable. 

Defendant Denies Liability 

Organon denies any liability or wrongdoing. 

Retired federal Judge Wayne Anderson mediated the settlement. 

A source told Mealey Publications that the settlement website will be www.nuvaringofficialsettlement.com

Judge Martinotti entered a case management order setting deadlines for submission of claims and for Organon to exercise its walk-away right. 

(New Jersey case management order available.  Document #28-140220-002R.

‘Good Settlement’ 

Plaintiff attorney Hunter J. Shkolnik of Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik in New York, who helped negotiate the settlement and holds leadership positions in the federal and New Jersey state court litigations, told Mealey Publications, “I think it is a very good settlement.  I recognized that these young women will be compensated.” 

NuvaRing is a flexible silicone ring infused with hormones.  Placed in the vagina, it releases hormones to prevent pregnancy. 

Plaintiffs allege that the combination drug/device causes blood clots with resultant injuries and death. 

6 Years In Litigation 

Litigation began in 2008.  Federal cases are centralized in a multidistrict litigation the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri before Judge Rodney W. Sippel.  New Jersey cases were centralized in a multicounty litigation docket in Bergen County. 

In June, Judge Martinotti dismissed seven cases in the first round of bellwether trials.  Both he and Judge Sippel stayed the litigation pending mediation. 

As of Sept. 30, Merck reported there were 1,715 NuvaRing lawsuits filed:  about 1,500 in the MDL court, 210 in the New Jersey court and nine in a coordinated proceeding docket in the San Francisco Superior Court. 

Counsel 

The plaintiffs are represented in the settlement by Roger C. Denton and Kristine K. Kraft of Schlichter, Bogard & Denton in St. Louis and Hunter J. Shkolnik of Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik in New York.  Organon is represented by Melissa A. Geist of Reed Smith in Princeton, N.J., and Stephen G. Strauss of Bryan Cave in St. Louis. 

MDL plaintiffs lead counsel are Paul D. Rheingold of Rheingold & Valet in New York, Steven B. Blau of Blau & Brown in New York, Denton, Kraft and Shkolnik.  MDL defense lead counsel are Sonja S. Weissman of Reed Smith in Philadelphia; Thomas J. Yoo of Reed Smith in Los Angeles; Daniel H. Ball of Bryan Cave; and Geist and Strauss.

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