January 28, 2015 — U.S. District Judge Cyntha Rufe has agreed to dismiss eight lawsuits involving birth defects allegedly caused by the antidepressant Effexor.
Attorneys for plaintiffs are asking Judge Rufe to drop 26 lawsuits out of 68 currently pending in a centralized Multi-District Litigation (MDL No. 2458) in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, according to Law360.
In December 2014, Judge Rufe ordered attorneys to select 14 cases as possible candidates for “bellwether” trials. Unless a settlement is reached before trial, lawyers will use the jury’s decision in that case to negotiate a settlement or dismissal of lawsuits involving similar allegations.
Pfizer and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturers of Effexor, are accused of marketing it as safe for pregnant women despite knowing about the possible increased risk of birth defects. Members of the litigation are women and children with birth defects.
Judge Rufe oversees a parallel litigation (MDL No. 2342) involving Zoloft. Over 525 lawsuits have been filed on behalf of women who used Zoloft during pregnancy and had a baby with a heart defect or other serious injury.
Unlike a class action, in which the outcome in one lawsuit determines the outcome for hundreds of other cases, lawsuits in an MDL remain independent. Each plaintiff typically hires their own attorney, each case can have its own outcome, and lawsuits that are not decided at the federal level can be transferred back to the state court where they were originally filed.