EON News reported this week on a new birth injury lawsuit, which may be the first stemming from a mother’s ingestion of a certain antidepressant during her pregnancy. Unlike most Illinois birth injury cases that our medical malpractice attorneys take on behalf of local residents, this case was filed against a drug company, not a medical provider. Specifically, the suit involves six different attorneys who filed a claim against Effexor-a popular drug used to treat depression. The lawyers are claiming that the drug caused the death of an infant who was born with a serious birth defect. The birth defect, claims the suit, was caused specifically because of the mother’s ingestion of Effexor during her pregnancy. Effexor is manufactured by pharmaceutical giants Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and Pfizer, Inc. The labelers and distributers of the drug are also named in the suit. Having multiple defendants are common in these cases, because a variety of companies are often involved in the process that creates these products, brings them to market, and then tries to sell them to doctors and patients.
Crucial to this case, it seems, is misinformation that was presented to patients about the drug itself. Obviously, what those who make the product say about its use and risks is particularly important for those taking the drug. This particular drug is a serotonin and norepinephine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat depression in 1993. However, since that time the makers and distributors of the drug failed to warn patients of the drug’s risks. Most notably, patients were not made aware of the drug’s potential of causing birth defects when taken by expectant mothers.
The plaintiff in the case apparently learned the hard way. The couple gave birth to a baby girl in February of 2010. However, very soon after she was born doctors (and the family) learned that she faced serious medical problems. It was discovered that the girl suffered from heart problems. Most notably she had a severe left hypoplastic heart, no aortic valve, a malformed aorta, and a misformed mitral valve. The condition was ultimately fatal, taking the infant’s life.
When looking into the cause of the birth defect, the family soon suspected that the mother’s taking of the antidepressant drug Effexor may have played a role. After learning more about the situation and seeking out the help of a birth injury lawyer, the family eventually filed this lawsuit. The suit includes a range of allegations against the involved companies. These include the failure to warm patients of the risk, allegations of fraud, and misrepresentation. These actions, allege the suit, directly caused the infant’s deformities and ultimately her death.
It will be interesting to see how this case develops. Two different rules might apply in these situations: strict liability rules and general negligence rules. Negligence claims are more common, requiring the plaintiff to show that the company directly breached a standard of care which led to the harm. Conversely, strict liability does not require a showing of fault. Instead, if certain criteria are met, the company can be held liable for the harm without the plaintiff being forced to point to a specific instance of negligence.
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