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A group of 25 Zoloft birth defect lawsuits will be prepared for early trial dates in the federal MDL, or multidistrict litigation, with the first bellwether trial expected to reach a jury in late next year.
In a Pretrial Order (PDF) issued by U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe on January 17, the court outlined the process for selecting small group of cases that will undergo case-specific discovery and be eligible for the first trial dates.
The Plaintiff’s Steering Committee, which is a group of Zoloft lawyers appointed to leadership roles in the litigation, have been directed to identify 12 cases by February 15, which will be included in an “Initial Discovery Group.” The court has indicated that no individual law firm may serve as primary counsel for more than two of the cases selected.
Lawyers for Pfizer, the manufacturer of Zoloft, will then identify an additional 13 cases by February 22, resulting in a total of 25 Zoloft birth defect cases that will be prepared for early trial dates expected to begin in September 2014.
These “bellwether” cases are designed to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated through many lawsuits filed on behalf of children born with defects and malformations caused by the side effects of Zoloft use during pregnancy. The outcomes of the trials and information obtained during the discovery phase are designed to help facilitate a potential Zoloft settlement agreement.
Zoloft Lawsuits Continue to Mount
Zoloft (sertraline) is one of the most widely prescribed medications in the United States, and has been used by tens of millions of individuals. However, use of Zoloft by pregnant women has been linked to a potential increased risk of serious and potentially life-threatening birth defects and malformation for children.
Over the past year, a growing number of product liability lawsuits have been filed against Pfizer on behalf of children throughout the United States, alleging that the drug maker failed to adequately warn users or the medical community about the risks associated with using Zoloft during pregnancy.
Judge Rufe is overseeing all Zoloft cases filed in federal courts, which have been consolidated for pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
There are more than 250 lawsuits pending in the federal Zoloft MDL, with the number of claims continuing to increase as product liability lawyers continuing to review and file new cases on behalf of children who have been born with serious health problems, such as persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns (PPHN), spina bifida, neural tube defects, heart defects, abdominal defects, club foot and other malformations.