A multidistrict litigation (MDL) recently was established to streamline the litigation of Zoloft lawsuits filed across the U.S. alleging that the SSRI antidepressant drug, taken during pregnancy, causes birth defects. The Zoloft MDL was created in April and organized in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Judge Cynthia M. Rufe presiding. It consolidates the pretrial litigation of the related lawsuits to increase judicial efficiency and reduce the risk of conflicting rulings. Unlike a class action suit, however, the MDL allows individual actions to remain separate and distinct. The Zoloft MDL currently consists of over 100 lawsuits from all over the country which allege that Pfizer, Inc., the manufacturer of Zoloft, failed to warn women and doctors that the drug increases the risk of birth defects when taken during pregnancy.
Judge Rufe issued an Order on May 4, 2012, scheduling the first status conference to be held on Thursday, July 12, 2012. She directed both sides to submit written statements June 8 to outline the key legal and factual issues and propose a case management order. On July 11, 2012, the plaintiff’s counsel held a conference in Philadelphia. Attorneys for Pfizer were also present, and all parties expressed confidence in Judge Rufe’s ability to efficiently and effectively manage the proceedings. A joint statement was filed by the parties advising Judge Rufe of the nature and background of the litigation.
On July 12, Judge Rufe held the initial status conference with attorneys for the plaintiffs and defense to discuss an overview of the litigation and assign leadership roles. The agenda included:
- Leadership roles and responsibilities
- State court litigation and the coordination of state-federal litigation
- Joint proposed case management order
- Schedule for filing and responding to complaints/answer
- Organizing the discovery process
- Setting dates and agenda for regular status conferences
Plaintiff lawyers assigned leadership roles will do research, argue pretrial motions, and eventually engage in settlement negotiations with Pfizer. As the litigation progresses, certain cases will be designated by Judge Rufe as bellwethers, cases that will be used set precedent for similar cases. Pfizer is expected to face thousands more Zoloft birth defects lawsuits.
Since it’s 1991 approval by the FDA to treat depression in adults, Zoloft has become controversial due to a wide range of serious side effects. It is a member of a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRI antidepressants. In 2005, the FDA issued a public health warning that Zoloft increased the risk of suicidal thoughts in depressed adults. Furthermore, at least twelve studies have linked the use of the drug by pregnant women to an increased risk of serious birth defects, including spina bifida (“split spine”), heart defects, cranial defects, Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN), abdominal defects, omphaloceles, and septal heart defects (“holes in the heart”). Despite these studies, Pfizer has not updated the Zoloft warning label and packaging materials to fully advise doctors and patients of Zoloft pregnancy risks.
Zoloft Lawsuit Attorneys
If your child was born with a heart defect or other birth defect after Zoloft use during pregnancy, you may be entitled to substantial financial compensation and should speak with an attorney right away.
Contact us now for more information. Get a free no-obligation consultation with an experienced Zoloft birth defects lawsuit attorney. We currently are accepting new Zoloft cases in all 50 states. Use the Zoloft attorney contact request form or call us toll-free. 800-845-6913