October 24, 2012 — According to a coordinator’s status update, there are currently 245 Zoloft lawsuits pending against Pfizer in a Multi-District Litigation (MDL). In addition to the MDL, there are also 66 lawsuits filed in state courts around the nation.

These state courts include Illinois (14 cases), Missouri (43 cases), New York (7 cases), Pennsylvania (1 case), and West Virginia (1 case). In total, there are 311 lawsuits pending against Pfizer. The coordinator is working to centralize state lawsuits with the federal MDL.

The Zoloft MDL has grown dramatically since it was formed in April 2012. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation (JPML) decided to centralize the litigation before Judge Cynthia M. Rufe in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Judge Rufe is currently working to coordinate the MDL with the state court cases. Centralizing the litigation reduces the risk of duplicative discovery, conflicting rulings in lower courts, and conserves the resources of the court.

Under Judge Rufe’s guidance, the federal cases in the MDL are in the midst of pre-trial proceedings. Judge Rufe is also working with state judges to discuss coordination the litigation between state and federal court. Many attorneys engaged at the state level have already exchanged discovery, motions, and deposition notices.

Judge Rufe has also scheduled status conferences for the following dates:

  • November 19, 2012
  • January 17, 2013
  • February 25, 2013
  • March 25, 2013

Plaintiffs allege that Pfizer failed to adequately warn about the risk of birth defects associated with the use of Zoloft (sertraline) during pregnancy. Zoloft, a popular antidepressant in the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) class, has been associated with an increased risk of heart defects, abdominal defects, cranial defects, Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN), and intellectual disabilities in more than a dozen studies.

The next step in the litigation will likely involve the establishment of bellwether trials. These cases are selected because they represent injuries and legal questions that are common to many lawsuits. As the bellwether trial proceeds, parties can get a clearer idea about how other, similar lawsuits would fare. This process can expedite a resolution or settlement in large drug litigations involving hundreds of plaintiffs.

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