Zoloft can allegedly cause serious birth defects to developing fetuses when ingested during pregnancy. These defects include pulmonary atresia, deformed limbs, patent ductus arteriosus, ventricular and septal defects, hypoplastic heart syndrome, aortic and ventricular outflow tract obstruction defects, craniosynostosis, omphalocele, gastroschisis, spina bifida, and cleft palate. The lawsuits filed throughout the country allege that Pfizer failed to adequately warn patients and healthcare professionals of these risks. Pfizer denies the association.
Lawsuits alleging birth defects caused by the antidepressant Zoloft/sertraline were consolidated on Tuesday before Judge Cynthia M. Rufe in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. About 92 federal lawsuits – and counting – will be included in this MDL.
What does this mean for Zoloft birth injury plaintiffs? The cases are technically not a class action, but the cases are merged together for discovery on issues common to all the Zoloft birth defect lawsuits. The upside for individual Zoloft birth defect lawyers is the efficiency of pulling together resources to really discover what Pfizer knew about the harmful effects their drugs had on unborn children whose moms were on Zoloft.
I don’t think there will be thousands of these lawsuits, but you can expect over 92 of them, and Zoloft users and doctors are better understanding the risks to children in utero if their mothers are taking Zoloft.
These cases have taken a turn for the worst. A federal judge has granted Pfizer summary judgment in over 300 lawsuits filed that allege birth injuries — birth defects, actually — against Pfizer. The judge did not say that said the science rejects the claim that sertraline can cause birth defects in children whose mothers took the antidepressant. Instead, the judge said science is not there yet, one way or the other. By the way, this is what happened in the Zoloft suicide cases. The science trailed behind the lawsuits.
The judge also did something else I believe was a mistake or the carrying out of bad law. These are claims on behalf of children. So, in my mind, justice mandates dismissing these cases without prejudice so the child can refile if the science later supports the claim. The court found otherwise:
Plaintiffs chose when to file their cases, and the court concludes that for the plaintiffs who have continued to pursue their claims, the litigation gates must be closed.
The judge may have been on the right side of the law. But this is the wrong side of justice. These are children. They should not be penalized because the court looked at the science and thought it was not there yet, particularly when reasonable minds can differ.