The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPMDL) announced on April 17, 2012, that nearly 100 Zoloft birth defect lawsuits would be centralized in a federal Multidistrict Litigation (MDL). Judge Cynthia M. Rufe will preside over the Zoloft MDL in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The JPMDL decision came in spite of 45 actions from plaintiffs opposing the formation of an MDL. Plaintiffs argued that the cases did not share sufficient common issues to warrant centralization. The JPMDL disagreed, saying, “We appreciate these arguments, but do not agree that these circumstances make centralization unnecessary or unwarranted.” The JPMDL chose the Pennsylvania location because more than half of the lawsuits were filed in that court.
It is very common for nationwide drug litigation to be consolidated in a Multidistrict Litigation (MDL). Although the cases remain independent, the litigation is centralized and streamlined. This reduces the chances of duplicate discovery, and also reduces the risk of conflicting rulings in lower courts. One location also tends to be more convenient, efficient, and reduces costs.
The decision to form an MDL will affect 57 federal lawsuits and 35 actions currently pending in federal courts around the nation. These cases will all be centralized in the Zoloft MDL.
Most plaintiffs argue that Pfizer failed to warn that Zoloft (sertraline) could potentially cause severe, life-threatening birth defects if the drug is taken during pregnancy. Although studies are still inconclusive, several studies have linked Zoloft to birth defects of the heart, abdomen, cranium, Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN), and more.