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March 12, 2019

Zostavax Lawsuit Alleges Vaccine Defects Led to Death

A new Zostavax lawsuit claims that a Pennsylvania man developed heart and respiratory failure, as well as other fatal complications shortly after receiving the defective shingles vaccine.

Doris Jean Johnson filed the Zostavax lawsuit against Merck & Co. on March 6 in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. She is presenting claims on behalf of herself and her deceased husband, Jack Wesley Johnson.

In May 2006, the FDA approved Zostavax as a single dose shingles vaccine for individuals older than 50. It is a stronger variation of Merck’s chickenpox vaccine, Varivax, which contains live varicella zoster virus. Users have reported a staggering number of problems from longer and more painful shingles outbreaks and other serious infections.

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Zostavax Lawsuit Allegations

Allegedly, the “under-attenuated” version of the virus was still strong enough to reactivate the dormant virus in some patients.

According to the Zostavax lawsuit, shortly after Johnson received the vaccine in May 2016, he began suffering from pneumonia, respiratory failure and acute systolic congestive heart failure. Consequently, he required treatment in an intensive care unit (ICU) before succumbing to these complications March 27, 2017.

“Merck failed to exercise due care in the labeling of Zostavax and failed to issue to consumers and/or their healthcare providers adequate warnings as to the risk of serious bodily injury, including viral infections, resulting from its use,” the complaint states. “Merck continued to manufacture and market its product despite the knowledge, whether direct or ascertained with reasonable care, that Zostavax posed a serious risk of bodily harm to consumers. This is especially true given its tenuous efficacy.”

Johnson’s wife’s Zostavax lawsuit brings claims of wrongful death, unjust enrichment, negligence, failure to warn and negligent misrepresentation, as well as design and manufacturing defect. She is seeking both compensatory and punitive damages to punish Merck for consciously disregarding the safety and health of patients in favor of its bottom line.

Zostavax Lawsuit MDL

Due to the inordinate level of similarities between lawsuits pending in the federal court system, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has centralized the federal litigation. District Judge Harvey Bartle III is presiding over the multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings, the MDL will most likely establish a bellwether program going forward. During the bellwether process, the court will select a small group of representative claims for early trial dates so that parties can gauge how juries are likely to respond to claims and evidence that are present throughout the litigation. Following the bellwether trials, if Merck refuses to reach Zostavax settlements to resolve the litigation, the court may remand the cases back to their original courts for individual trial dates.

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