Merck & Co chalked up another victory in its legal defence of withdrawn painkiller Vioxx yesterday, after a New Orleans judge denied a request for people who claim injury from the drug to sue the company en masse.

Judge Eldon Fallon ruled that the personal injury class action lawsuit – the last of this type of action pending in either federal or state courts – could not go ahead. Instead, the plaintiffs will have to plead their cases individually, according to a spokesman for Merck.

The company said that the ruling endorsed its view that each case in which a plaintiff claims injury by Vioxx (rofecoxib) is different and should be tried separately.

Out of 16 cases scheduled for trial but no longer pending, four have sided with the plaintiff, seven have sided with Merck and five have been dismissed. Another five cases, previously scheduled for trial, have been withdrawn from the trial calendar by the plaintiffs before the claims could reach trial.

Class action suits are still pending involving economic and medical monitoring claims, noted Merck.

The ruling came shortly after Fallon rejected class-action claims brought by plaintiffs in other parts of the world, including the UK South Africa, Poland, the Netherlands, Israel, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada . He had made a similar ruling in August, against suits brought by people in France and Italy, according to an AP report.