First jury trial in Zoloft MDL set for September 2014

The Zoloft MDL continues to move forward. In a recent Pre-Trial Order governing discovery and scheduling of the litigation, Judge Cynthia M. Rufe set the first trial “to begin no later then September 12, 2014, subject to the completion of all appropriate discovery and further Order of the Court.”

All federal lawsuits filed across the U.S. alleging birth defects caused by the SSRI antidepressant Zoloft and its generic equivalent, sertraline, were centralized on April 17, 2012, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia before Judge Cynthia M. Rufe by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPMDL) (In Re: Zoloft [Sertraline Hydrochloride] Products Liability Litigation, MDL Docket No. 2342, JPMDL). When the Zoloft MDL was established, there were less than 100 cases on file. Now, it includes more than 250 Zoloft lawsuits filed by plaintiffs across the country.

Judge Rufe’s Order addressed several Zoloft MDL discovery and scheduling issues:

  • Document Discovery of Pfizer
  • Deposition Discovery of Pfizer
  • Interrogatories and Requests to Admission to Pfizer
  • General Causation Daubert Motions
  • Initial Discovery Group
  • Threshold Plaintiff Discovery
  • Initial Trial Setting

The Court ruled that, without requiring further consent or Court Order, Plaintiffs may take up to 30 fact witness depositions of Pfizer employees and/or former employees. In addition, Plaintiffs may serve up to 50 interrogatories and 50 Requests for Admission (not including Requests for Admission as to the admissibility and authenticity of documents).

A MDL litigation schedule was established for exchange of expert reports regarding Zoloft general causation of birth defects and Daubert motions regarding the admissibility of expert witness testimony directed at Zoloft general causation experts.

The Court stated that it will identify cases to be included in the Initial Discovery Group after considering the parties’ proposals. It ordered the parties to submit proposals governing selection of Trial Pool Cases and protocol for selection and scheduling of the first cases to be tried. The first trial is tentatively set to begin no later than September 12, 2014.

Judge Rufe ordered that discovery from Plaintiffs in the initial Discovery Group be presumptively limited to Threshold Discovery, the scope of which she delineated in detail.

Zoloft lawsuits claim that drug company Pfizer failed to warn of birth defects risks linked to use of the SSRI antidepressant during pregnancy. Despite Zoloft pregnancy risks, suits claim that Pfizer targeted marketing efforts to encourage doctors to prescribe Zoloft to pregnant women and women of child-bearing age who could become pregnant. In 2007, Zoloft became the most prescribed antidepressant drug in the U.S. with almost 30 million prescriptions filled. As a result, millions of unborn children have been put at risk of suffering Zoloft birth defects.

If your child was born with a heart defect or other birth defect after use of Zoloft in pregnancy, you may may have a claim and should speak with a lawyer right away.

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