Zoloft Lawsuits Filed On Behalf of More than 300 Children with Birth Defects

In state and federal courts throughout the country, more than 300 families have filed a Zoloft lawsuit over birth defects or malformations that were allegedly caused by use of the popular antidepressant during pregnancy, and the number of cases is expected to continue to grow.

According to a court update on the status of the Zoloft litigation (PDF) posted last week, there are already about 245 complaints filed in the federal court system, which have been consolidated as part of MDL, or multidistrict litigation.

The federal Zoloft MDL was just formed in April 2012, at which time there were under 100 cases pending in U.S. District Courts across the country.

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The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ordered that all federal cases will be centralized before Judge Cynthia M. Rufe in Pennsylvania, for coordinated handling to reduce the amount of duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different courts and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and courts.

Judge Rufe has been working to coordinate the federal Zoloft litigation with cases filed in various state courts. According to an update provided by lawyers on October 12, there are about 70 Zoloft birth defect lawsuits pending at the state court level, with 43 cases pending in Missouri, 17 in Illinois, 7 in New York and at least one each in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Discovery in Zoloft Cases Now Moving Forward

Zoloft (sertraline) is one of the most widely prescribed medications in the United States.  Introduced by Pfizer in 1991, Zoloft is commonly used for treatment of depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety, but use during pregnancy has been linked to a risk of several types of birth defects and malformations.

All of complaints filed throughout the country include similar allegations that Pfizer failed to warn pregnant women or the medical community about the potential for birth defects from Zoloft side effects, claiming that the drug maker knew or should have known about the risk of clubfoot, heart problems, neural tube defects, abdomonial defects, persistent pulmonary hypertension for newborns (PPHN), spina bifida and other malformations.

As the federal litigation continues to grow, Judge Rufe issued a Preliminary Discovery Plan (PDF) on October 17, outlining the procedures that will be followed to prepare the first Zoloft lawsuits for trial dates in the federal MDL.

Under the plan, parties are not allowed to conduct any individual discovery other than what has been outlined by the Court, without an express agreement of the parties. At this time, each family who has already brought a lawsuit has been ordered to file a Plaintiff’s Fact Sheet (PFS), providing certain information about their case, within the next 60 days. As additional cases are filed, Judge Rufe has ordered that a PFS be provided within 45 days.

It is expected that a future order will establish a bellwether trial process, where a small group of cases will be prepared for early trial dates to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be offered throughout the litigation. The outcome of these bellwether cases may help facilitate an eventual Zoloft settlement agreement between the parties.


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