Merck Lawyer Admonished for Arguments in Vioxx Trial

Diane Sullivan

Jan. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Merck & Co.'s lead attorney at a New Jersey trial over its Vioxx painkiller acted unethically and unprofessionally in court yesterday during her opening statements, the judge said.

Attorney Diane Sullivan [pictured at right] repeatedly violated pre-trial orders on what statements were allowed during the first phase of a trial over whether Vioxx caused the heart attacks of two men, Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee said today outside the jury's presence. Sullivan's violations included talking about Merck's cancer research and noting the home states of the men, Higbee said.

``It is unprofessional, it is unethical, and it is contemptuous of this court,'' Higbee said in New Jersey state court in Atlantic City. ``She deliberately violated my orders on repeated occasions. I am not going to deal with this kind of unprofessionalism. I am not going to let it taint this trial.''

[S]ullivan, a lawyer at Dechert LLP in Princeton, New Jersey, declined to comment.

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