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A group of lawyers have been appointed to serve in various leadership roles in the federal Zoloft MDL (multidistrict litigation), which was established earlier this year for pretrial proceedings in all lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the United States involving children born with severe birth defects from side effects of Zoloft use during pregnancy.
These attorneys will perform certain functions throughout the litigation that will benefit all plaintiffs who have filed a Zoloft lawsuit, such as conducting common discovery, arguing motions before the court and negotiating stipulations or potential settlement agreements.
In April, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred all Zoloft cases to District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, for coordinated handling as part of an MDL. Such centralization is designed to allow the parties to reduce duplicative discovery across similar cases and eliminate contradictory pretrial rulings from different judges.
According to a Pretrial Order (PDF) issued July 13, Judge Rufe appointed five lawyers to serve on a Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee, 16 attorneys to a Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, one attorney to serve as Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel and one as Multi-District Coordinator.
Zoloft Birth Defect Litigation
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.
All of the complaints involve similar allegations that Pfizer failed to adequately warn consumers or the medical community about the risks of problems for unborn children if Zoloft is used during pregnancy, 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.
Many of these problems can develop if the medication is used during the first trimester, which is a time when many women do not even realize they are pregnant. Therefore, lawsuits allege that the manufacturer should have provided stronger warnings about the risk of getting pregnant while taking the medication so that women could take precautions.
It is expected that hundreds, if not thousands, of lawsuits will be filed by Zoloft lawyers throughout the United States. As these cases are filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country they will be transferred into the Zoloft MDL.
Although the cases are centralized for pretrial proceedings, which is often confused with a class action for Zoloft, the lawsuits remain individual cases and each plaintiff must establish that malformations or defects were caused by the use of Zoloft. Following pretrial proceedings, if a settlement or other resolution is not reached, each case may be remanded back to the court where it was originally filed for an individual trial.