Zoloft MDL Daubert ruling excluding experts led to Stay Order

Recently, in the Multi-District Litigation against drug manufacturer Pfizer, Inc. claiming Zoloft birth defects (the Zoloft MDL), presiding Judge Cynthia Rufe excluded plaintiffs’ experts Dr. Anick Berard, a perinatal pharmacoepdemiologist, Dr. Thomas Sadler, an embryologist, Dr. Robert Cabrera, a teratologist and Dr. Michael Levin, a molecular development biologist. Judge Rufe excluded these experts after a Daubert Hearing wherein the court examined the methodology of the experts intending to testify. The pending litigation claims that the SSRI antidepressant Zoloft, manufactured by Pfizer, causes birth defects when used during pregnancy.

There currently is a stay on Zoloft MDL proceedings in the federal court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA due to rulings by Judge Rufe. However, both plaintiffs and defendant have Motions pending. Plaintiffs have moved to present new witnesses on the issue of causation. Plaintiffs are attempting to present the testimony of Dr. Nicholas Jewell, a biostatistical professor at the University of California, Berkley. Dr. Jewell is anticipated to provide testimony that “in utero exposure to Zoloft can cause congenital heart defects.” Plaintiffs alternatively are also asking for leave to voluntarily dismiss their claims without prejudice so that they may pursue their Zoloft birth defects claims later, when the proof is more viable. Judge Rufe is scheduled to decide on whether to admit Dr. Jewell’s expert testimony on November 18, 2014.

Defendant Pfizer asking for a 2nd time to present a summary judgment motion. Pfizer is opposed to the voluntary dismissal as it feels it will previal if their motion for summary judgment is heard and ruled upon. Pfizer has moved that all 526 pending cases be dismissed on summary judgment because all four of plaintiffs’ causation experts were excluded pursuant to Judge Rufe’s Daubert rulings.

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