[JURIST] Jury selection begins Monday in the first of over 3,800 state and federal lawsuits [JURIST report] against pharmaceutical giant Merck [corporate website], alleging that the company knew its popular painkiller Vioxx [corporate backgrounder] was dangerous before it voluntarily pulled the drug from the market in September 2004. The SEC is also investigating [JURIST report] the company's handling of the drug. The first suit, Ernst v. Merck [AP report], is being brought in Texas state court by a Texas woman whose husband took the drug for eight months and died in his sleep. Merck says it acted responsibly in removing the drug from the market and that there's no proof that the drug caused Ernst's death. Merck has also stated it will not settle cases [New York Times report] and is expecting to ligitate thousands of them regardless of the outcome of this trial. The first federal court case against Merck is expected to start late this fall [JURIST report]. Several thousand Canadians [MacLean's report] are also suing Merck over Vioxx [plaintiffs' attorneys website], including former NHL player Rob Tallas, who took the drug for 2 1/2 years [Boston Globe report] and suffered a heart attack in 2004 [Boston Globe report] after a game in Finland.