Zoloft PPHN Lawsuits May Be Consolidated Into MDL
Requests by Pfizer to consolidate 59 Zoloft lawsuits concerning Zoloft PPHN and other birth defects into a single federal court are continuing. On March 29, 2012 the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation held a hearing on the subject in San Diego. During this hearing, the panel considered the establishment of Zoloft MDL No. 2342 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Pfizer has specifically requested this location, as well as the inclusion of 59 Zoloft lawsuits originally filed in Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Prior to the hearing, on March 22, 2012, Pfizer submitted a supplemental brief that states the number of lawsuits filed against the Zoloft manufacturer, which seek damages for alleged birth defects such as Zoloft PPHN (Zoloft persistent pulmonary hypertension in the newborn) and Zoloft heart defects, have increased by more than 60 percent in 2012 alone.
While Pfizer is requesting the inclusion of 59 Zoloft lawsuits into the proposed coordination, more than 90 cases involving Zoloft heart defects and other birth defects such as Zoloft PPHN have now been filed nationwide.
Plaintiffs: Pfizer “artificially” inflating docket with Zoloft lawsuits
Pfizer originally filed the request for consolidation of Zoloft lawsuits on January 18, 2012, claiming that coordination of cases would reduce duplicate discovery and make the legal process faster and more convenient for all parties involved. At the time, some plaintiffs and their Zoloft lawyer representatives complained that Pfizer was “artificially” inflating the docket of 59 cases with Zoloft lawsuits that should remain in state courts where they were originally filed.
However, supplemental filings that indicate the rate of growth in lawsuits involving Zoloft PPHN and other birth defects (including Zoloft heart defects) show additional support for the establishment of an MDL, according to Pfizer.
“The growing number of cases filed directly in federal court by plaintiffs also further dispels the notion, advanced by certain plaintiffs’ council, that Pfizer is seeking an MDL based on an artificially inflated federal docket,” The drug manufacturer wrote in its supplemental brief filed on March 22.
Some plaintiffs have also suggested additional venues for the multidistrict litigation, including the Southern District of Illinois or the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. However, Pfizer prefers the New York location due to its proximity to the company’s headquarters. The New York court is also experienced in handling multidistrict litigation, overseeing more than 100 MDLs since 1977.
Zoloft PPHN and other birth defects
The Zoloft lawsuits included in the MDL petition all involve Zoloft heart defects and other birth defects that were allegedly caused by Zoloft exposure in the womb. Growing evidence supports the complaint that use of the antidepressant during pregnancy has resulted in a host of serious and even life-threatening birth defects, including Zoloft PPHN, congenital heart defects and other abnormalities.
In 2006, the FDA updated product warnings to reflect the increased risk of Zoloft PPHN and additional warnings may be considered.