Birth Defect Class Action Lawsuit To Move Forward in Australia

An Australian court has cleared the way for a class action lawsuit to move forward against the makers of thalidomide, a morning sickness drug given to pregnant women more than fifty years ago, which was later linked to a risk of birth defects

The thalidomide birth defect class action lawsuit seeks to represent every Australian born between January 1, 1958 and December 31, 1970, who developed a birth defect after their mother took thalidomide during pregnancy.

The case was cleared to proceed earlier this month by a Victoria state supreme court, which dismissed objections by the manufacturer, Grunenthal. Diageo Scotland Ltd. and Distillers Company Ltd. are also defendants in the lawsuit.

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Grunenthal wanted the case moved to Germany, where it is headquartered, but the Victoria Supreme Court determined that the inconvenience for the company was overshadowed by the inconvenience of the plaintiffs in the case.

The lawsuit is seeking compensation for victims’ pain and suffering, lost wages and future medical treatment.

Thalidomide was sold in Australia between 1957 and 1961 and was marketed as a safe and non-toxic treatment. However, it was later linked to birth deformities in the newborns of the mothers taking the drug, which was sold worldwide.

The lead plaintiff, Lynette Rowe, was born without arms and legs after her mother took the drug to combat morning sickness.

The companies involved have reached a number of out-of-court settlements with children of mothers who took the drug, but there has never been a court ruling on their liability. An attempt to make Grunenthal executives face criminal charges fell through in the 1970s.

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