Attorneys in Birth Defect Lawsuits Over Zoloft to Meet with MDL Judge

Lawyers involved in the federal lawsuits over Zoloft are scheduled to meet with the judge overseeing the litigation on Thursday, where they are expected to discuss the organization and structure of the recently formed MDL (multidistrict litigation).

On April 17, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation centralized all federal Zoloft lawsuits before Judge Cynthia M. Rufe, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, for coordinated handling and management during pretrial proceedings.

All of the complaints involve cases brought by or on behalf of children who were born with severe birth defects or malformations from side effects of Zoloft use by their mothers during pregnancy.

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Plaintiffs allege that Pfizer, the maker of the drug, failed to adequately warn consumers or the medical community about the problems for unborn children, which could include an increased risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns (PPHN), spina bifida, heart defects, lung defects, abdominal defects, cranial defects and other malformations.

According to a proposed agenda (PDF) released in advance of the initial status conference scheduled for July 12, Zoloft attorneys representing plaintiffs and defendants intend to discuss an overview of the litigation, a proposed case management order and a discovery plan to prepare the first cases for early trial dates in the MDL.

During or shortly after the conference, it is expected that Judge Rufe will appoint attorneys to serve in various leadership roles in the MDL. These attorneys will perform certain functions that would benefit all plaintiffs who have filed a Zoloft lawsuit, such as conducting discovery that is applicable to all cases, submitting and arguing motions before the Court and negotiating any stipulations or potential Zoloft settlement agreements wit the drug maker.

Zoloft (sertraline) was introduced by Pfizer in 1991 for the treatment of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety. By 2007 there were nearly 30 million prescriptions, making it the most prescribed antidepressant in the United States.

It is expected that hundreds, if not thousands of lawsuits over birth defects from Zoloft will ultimately be filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the United States.

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