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Zoloft Side Effects Lead to a Centralization of Cases in Pennsylvania

In 1991, Zoloft (sertraline) was approved by the FDA to treat depression. Not long after it was on the market, patients began to report serious complications with the drug. A warning was added to the label by the FDA in 2005 to advise doctors and patients of the risk of suicidal behavior in children. In 2007, the label was revised to include the warning for young adults up to age 24.

In 2006, studies began to surface of relating the risks of birth defects from the drug. One, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, said that women who took Zoloft while pregnant ran a higher than normal risk of giving birth to children with persistent pulmonary hypertension of a newborn (PPHN). Later studies also showed the risk of abdominal defects, skull defects such as craniosynostosis, and heart defects.

An attorney pursuing compensation for plaintiffs claiming injury in a Zoloft litigation will point out the above issues. Patients who have had a child with birth defects allegedly as a result of taking Zoloft say they never would have taken the drug had they known of the risks.

The U.S. JPML centralizes all case of plaintiffs with complaints against Zoloft

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) centralized all birth defects lawsuits against Zoloft on April 17, 2012, in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. 57 cases were shifted to one court with each involving plaintiffs who had taken Zoloft while pregnant and later gave birth to babies with birth defects.

In September of 2012, the JPML distributed a list of cases that showed how large the litigation had become with 157 cases.

Assigned to oversee the pre-trial proceedings is Judge Cynthia Rufe. On July 17, 2012, Judge Rufe scheduled the next status conference to be held in Philadelphia on September 10, 2012. On the agenda are the current and anticipated volume of lawsuits, a plan of discovery, and the coordination with state courts also dealing with lawsuits filed by a Zoloft attorney on behalf of clients who claim injuries.

The MDL is designed to help both plaintiff and defendant and to streamline cases

Up to this point, it’s unclear when the first bellwether trial will be scheduled. In general, both parties will work in tandem to select a pool of cases from which the bellwether trial will be picked. The bellwether trial will set the stage for the rest of the litigation and its proceedings.

As the number of cases grew, the JPML agreed to centralize all federal cases. This is done to decrease the risk of inconsistent rulings, increase efficiency, and conserve judicial resources. Each case will share the deposition of witnesses and initial discovery, but they will be tried individually.

As the MDL begins, both sides are working together to create deadlines to make the process easier to take discovery from witnesses and for plaintiffs to file their suits. The development of plaintiff and defendant fact sheets is also part of the process as is the establishment of protocol to produce records and other necessary documents.

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