Initial Conference Scheduled for July in Zoloft Birth Defect MDL
In the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) established last month for all lawsuits over Zoloft birth defects, an initial conference has been scheduled for this summer to discuss the structure of the litigation and process for resolving the cases or preparing them for trial.
U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe, who is presiding over the Zoloft birth defect MDL, issued a Pretrial Order (PDF) on May 4, scheduling an initial status conference for Thursday, July 12.
At that time, an attorney will appear on behalf of each party, prepared to “suggest procedures that will facilitate the expeditious, economical and just resolution of this litigation,” according to Judge Rufe’s order.
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No later than June 8, each side has been directed to submit a brief written statement outlining the critical legal and factual issues in the Zoloft litigation, as well as a joint proposed case management order.
During or shortly after the conference, it is also expected that Judge Rufe will appointed attorneys to serve in various leadership positions in the MDL, These attorneys will perform certain functions that 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 potential settlement agreements or stipulations with the opposing party.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation centralized the Zoloft MDL before Judge Rufe in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on April 17. At that time, there were nearly 100 lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country on behalf of children born with birth defects from Zoloft, after their mothers were given the antidepressant during pregnancy. In addition, the litigation is expected to continue to grow as Zoloft lawyers continue to review and file additional cases in federal district courts.
The lawsuits all raise similar allegations that Pfizer, the manufacturer of Zoloft, failed to adequately warn consumers or the medical community about the risks associated with use of the popular antidepressant during pregnancy, which has been linked to a number of serious and potentially life-threatening health problems for babies, including persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns (PPHN), spina bifida, heart defects, lung defects, abdominal defects, cranial defects and other malformations.
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.
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