July 10, 2012 – Attorneys involved in federal Zoloft lawsuits are set to meet with the judge overseeing the cases on Thursday, when they are expected to discuss the organizational structure of the newly-formed multidistrict litigation (MDL). All of the lawsuits involved in the MDL were brought on behalf of children who were born with severe birth defects after their mothers took Zoloft during pregnancy. The plaintiffs allege that drugmaker Pfizer failed to adequately warn the public about the potential complications associated with their blockbuster antidepressant, which could include persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), spina bifida, and a large number of other severe congenital abnormalities.
What’s the problem?
According to a previously-released preliminary agenda, Zoloft lawyers intend to meet with Judge Cynthia M. Rufe to discuss:
- an overview of the new multidistrict litigation;
- a proposed case management order;
- a discovery plan to prepare the first cases for early trial dates.
The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) centralized all federal Zoloft birth defect lawsuits under Rufe in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on April 17. MDLs are designed to reduce duplicative discovery, eliminate conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges, and to serve the convenience of all parties involved.
At the conclusion of the conference, Judge Rufe is expected to appoint legal counsel to serve in a number of leadership roles within the MDL. These attorneys will perform various legal functions intended to benefit all plaintiffs who have filed a Zoloft birth defects lawsuit, such as:
- conducting discovery;
- submitting and arguing motions before the court;
- negotiating any stipulations or potential settlement agreements with Pfizer.
First approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991, Zoloft (generic: sertraline) is prescribed for the treatment of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and anxiety. By 2007, nearly 30 million prescriptions had been filled for Zoloft, making it the most widely-prescribed antidepressant in the country.