September 24, 2012 – Last month, the Zoloft birth defects multidistrict litigation (MDL) added five new lawsuits in a single day, all of which were filed on behalf of babies allegedly born with congenital abnormalities after their mothers took the controversial antidepressant during pregnancy. The new cases were filed in the United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where the litigation is currently centralized under Judge Cynthia M. Rufe. The Zoloft birth defect lawsuits join at least 90 other similar cases included in the recently formed MDL.
What’s the problem?
One of the new Zoloft birth defect lawsuits included in the MDL involves a mother who claims that her daughter, Jade, was born with three separate congenital heart defects after being exposed to Zoloft in the womb. After suffering from a severe bout of depression early on in her pregnancy, the plaintiff was prescribed Zoloft by her doctor, which she allegedly took exactly according to instructions. Her daughter Jade was subsequently born with an atrial septal defect, ventricular septal defect, and coarctation of the aorta, three severe heart defects that will require lifelong medical care and monitoring.
When a multidistrict litigation is formed, all lawsuits filed in federal court are centralized before a single judge for pretrial proceedings. This is intended to prevent duplicate discovery and contrary decisions by different judges, and to move things as swiftly through the litigation process as possible. However, if the parties fail to reach a settlement or otherwise resolve the cases, they will be ordered back to their original jurisdiction for individual trials.
In addition to septal defects and coarctation of the aorta, numerous studies have linked the maternal use of Zoloft during pregnancy to a large number of other severe congenital birth defects, which have been reported to include:
- Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN)
- Tricuspid Valve (Ebstein’s Anomaly)
- Mitral Valve Prolapse
- Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA)
- Transposition of the Great Vessels (TGV)
- Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF)
- Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS)
- Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome (HRHS)
- Tricuspid Atresia
- Aortic Stenosis
- Pulmonary Atresia (PA)
- Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)
- Truncus Arteriosus
- Tricuspid Valve Stenosis
- Heart Murmur
- Pulmonary Stenosis
- Gastroschisis – abdominal wall defect
- Esophageal Stenosis
- Anal Atresia
- Spina Bifida