25 Zoloft birth defects cases remanded to WV state court

On February 5, 2014, the United States Circuit Court for the Southern District of West Virginia has remanded a Zoloft birth defects lawsuit involving 25 plaintiffs to WV State Court, where it originally was filed by 19 plaintiffs in July 2012. Pursuant to Rules of Civil Procedure, the West Virginia Court assigned each plaintiff’s claim a separate case number.

In August 2012, Pfizer filed a motion to remove the claims of 18 of the plaintiffs to federal court under the legal theory of diversity jurisdiction. It argued that the West Virginia Rule created 19 individual actions and thus they could remove the diverse cases, leaving the non-diverse party in the West Virginia Court. In September 2012, the Appeals Court ruled that the claims filed together were one action, properly joined, and remanded all of the cases back to the State Court.

In October 2012, the Circuit Court of Wayne County, West Virginia, entered an Order consolidating all of the cases under Civil Action 12-C-146. Ten days later six more families filed Zoloft lawsuits against Pfizer on cases that were substantially similar to the original 19. That day, the Court entered another Order of Consolidation including the six new Zoloft cases under case number 12-C-146.

In December 2013, Pfizer filed another Notice of Removal of the 19 original cases. This time Pfizer removed all of the actions as one case. In response, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Remand arguing that Pfizer cannot split up the case and remove only some of the plaintiffs included in Civil Action 12-C-146.

The United States Circuit Court granted Plaintiffs Motion to Remand. Pursuant to statute, in order to remove a case Defendants are required to remove the whole case and just some of its claims. The West Virginia Court consolidated all 25 Zoloft birth defects cases under one matter (Civil Action 12-C-146). The United State Circuit Court rejected Pfizer’s argument that the consolidation was for pre-trial purposes only. The removal was improper and if all 25 cases had been removed, diversity jurisdiction would not exist. The federal court ruled it had no jurisdiction over the matter and it must be remanded to state court.

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