On April 17, 2012, by Order of the United States Judicial Panel the Multidistrict Litigation, MDL 2342 was created to consolidate Zoloft birth defects lawsuits against defendant Pfizer, Inc., manufacturer of the popular Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant. This MDL handles claims by plaintiffs from anywhere in the United States against Pfizer. These cases “involve allegations that Zoloft, a prescription medication approved for the treatment of depression and other ailments, causes birth defects in children when their mothers ingest the drug while pregnant.” The Panel further indicated that “[c]entralization will eliminate duplicative discovery; prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings; and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary.”
Each case transferred to the Zoloft MDL remains its own separate cause of action. The ruling for consolidation has not made this a class action lawsuit. Each case will be evaluated individually, but as many will have the same experts and discovery, consolidation will streamline the discovery process. The cases have been consolidated in the federal court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania, Judge Cynthia Rufe presiding. Recently, several Pre-Trial Orders have been issued clarifying conference dates and trial dates.
The Daubert hearings will be held in mid-April. A Daubert hearing is held in front of a judge to determine the admissibility of scientific and expert testimony. After the Daubert hearings, general status conferences for all of the involved parties will be held on June 9, 2014 and September 12, 2014. The Leadership Counsel Status Conferences will be July 1, 2014 and October 14, 2014.
Judge Rule clarified a few previous orders that were matters of confusion between the parties. Pursuant to Pre-Trial Order 52, the Court will determine the order in which the cases are tried. The matters will not be determined by a random number generator. November 3, 2014 remains the start date for the first bellwether trial. The final pre-trial conference is scheduled for October 30, 2014, and jury selection will be completed by October 31, 2014.
Cases still continue to be filed against Pfizer regarding birth defects caused by the antidepressant Zoloft.