April 20, 2015 — Pfizer has been cleared of liability in the first-ever trial alleging that the birth defect risks of Zoloft were downplayed to boost sales.
Zoloft is an antidepressant medication that works by influencing serotonin and passes through the placenta when it is used during pregnancy. Several studies have found evidence that Zoloft increases the risk of “hole in the heart” defects when it is used in the first trimester.
Following a week-long trial in St. Louis, Missouri, jurors quickly rejected arguments that Pfizer should be held responsible for causing Logyn Pesante’s heart defects.
The boy’s family sought more than $2.7 million in compensation for the boy’s three open-heart surgeries and pacemaker implanted a month after he was born, according to Bloomberg Business.
The decision is significant because it was the first case selected for trial by attorneys for plaintiffs. However, Law360 reported that the jury did not rule on claims involving causation or failure to warn, but only claims involving compensatory damages for personal injury.
One juror, 55 year-old Lamar Vaughn, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the plaintiffs “didn’t prove” Zoloft caused Pesante’s heart defects. He said, “There were so many unknowns that could have caused it.”
Another 1,000 lawsuits involving Zoloft and birth defects remain pending against Pfizer. The next state-court trial is set to begin next month in Philadelphia on behalf of plaintiff Mia Robinson. There is also a federal litigation in Pennsylvania, but the first “bellwether” trial is not expected until next year.