For more information or confidential assistance
Call 800-306-3180

First Bellwether Cases Selected in Zoloft MDL

The U.S. District Judge presiding over the group of Zoloft birth defect lawsuits currently pending under multidistrict litigation in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has outlined the process of narrowing down the lawsuits eligible for the first bellwether trials.

More than 420 product liability cases are currently pending under MDL 2342, involving harmful side effects of Zoloft during pregnancy, such as birth defects and malformations.

Plaintiffs allege Pfizer failed to adequately warm women or the medical community of the harmful risks associated with using the drug while pregnant. Zoloft birth defect lawsuits claim Pfizer should have known about the potential risks to the fetus, but instead withheld this important information.

Bellwether trial selection underway

The first Zoloft bellwether trial is scheduled to begin on November 3, 2013. Candidate selection is currently underway to determine which cases will be chosen to stand trial. Bellwether trials help to determine how a jury may react to specific evidence and testimony that may be repeated in a majority of cases. These trials are held to in hopes of the two sides coming to an agreement that may resolve the claims, eliminating the need for hundreds of individual trials.

To begin the process, an “Initial Discovery Pool” of 25 cases were chosen for pretrial discovery. Of these cases, 13 were selected by Pfizer and 12 by a group of plaintiffs’ lawyers.

On December 4, Judge Cynthia Rufe issued an order outlining the process for selecting the first cases that will go to trial, implying that the cases of five to six plaintiffs will be ready for the first bellwether trial dates. Each side will be allowed to “strike” a maximum of two cases from the Initial Discovery Pool, with a deadline of May 5, 2014. Pfizer is not permitted to strike more than one case where the plaintiffs are represented by the same primary counsel.

Voluntary dismissal of any claims in the pool of 25 cases will be considered one of the plaintiff’s eligible strikes. If the plaintiff’s use more than their allotted two strikes, Pfizer will be given an equal number to use. All strikes must be used by May 5.

Each side has been ordered to designate three of the remaining cases for a “Trial Pool,” by May 14. All generic and case-specific discovery for cases in this Trial Pool must be completed by August 15, 2014.  These cases will be eligible for selection in the first bellwether trial slots. When the final pool has been chosen, both sides will be required to provide a brief summary of each claim to the court and Judge Rufe will select specific cases for trial dates.

Opening statements for the lawsuits chosen for bellwether trials will begin during the first week of November 2014. According to the Pretrial Order, testimony will last for approximately three weeks, with each side allotted a total of 25 hours to present its case. Jury deliberations are expected to begin on November 24, 2013.

Zoloft birth defect lawsuits

Zoloft is part of a category of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and is one of the most prescribed medications in the United States. The drug is used to treat Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Premenstrual Dysphonic Disorder.

The drug has been used by tens of millions of patients, but plaintiffs believe ingesting Zoloft during pregnancy caused their children to be born with serious birth defects. Many complaints accuse the defendant of knowing the drug could cause harm to children, but failing to warn patients and the medical community of the risks. Plaintiffs allege Pfizer misrepresented and continues to misrepresent the safety and efficacy of the drug.

  1. NBC 4i, Zoloft/SSRI Birth Defect Allegation Lawyers Help: Resource4thePeople Cites Growing Number of Cases in Federal Multidistrict Litigation

  2. Zoloft, About Zoloft

  3. U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Shields v. Pfizer Inc., Et. Al