Over the years, Pfizer, the manufacturer of Zoloft, has been the target of many lawsuits. That is because Zoloft, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), has been linked to birth defects after pregnant women took the medication during their first trimester. The birth defects attributed to Zoloft use include abdominal and cranial birth defects, persistent pulmonary hypertension, and congenital heart defects, specifically atrial and ventricular septal defects.
The family of a seven-year-old-girl in Springfield, Illinois became the latest to file a suit against Pfizer over Zoloft. The suit claims that the girl was born in 2005 with an abnormally narrow large intestine and rectum after her mother took Zoloft that was prescribed to her during pregnancy. The suit further claims that Pfizer marketed Zoloft to treat pregnant women with depression, even though Pfizer allegedly knew, or should have known, as early as 1991 that Zoloft was unreasonably dangerous both for the women and for their fetuses. By allegedly failing to properly warn the public, physicians, and the Food and Drug Administration, the suit claims that Pfizer was liable for negligence.
The suit argues that the girl's mother only took Zoloft during her pregnancy in 2004 because she was informed that it was safe. Her daughter's condition has required numerous procedures and will require constant medical treatment throughout her life. In all likelihood, the suit will be combined with 200 other cases in an existing class-action lawsuit. Meanwhile, Pfizer -- not surprisingly -- denies that Zoloft causes birth defects, claiming that extensive scientific research backs the finding that it is safe. Pfizer spokesmen claim that despite the large number of people taking Zoloft, the number of people suing is quite small.
That may change as more information about Zoloft's link to birth defects surfaces. If your child has a heart defect, a cranial defect, or some other congenital birth defect and you believe that it could be due to your taking Zoloft or some other SSRI, you could file a product liability suit against Pfizer or any other manufacturer.
When you file a lawsuit relating to a product, you can seek to find the manufacturer both negligent and strictly liable. Under negligence theory, you would argue that Pfizer did not use reasonable care when marketing the product, and therefore did not provide customers and physicians with enough information. As a result, you took Zoloft while pregnant without knowing the consequences, and the damage was your child's birth defect. Strict liability has nearly the same elements as negligence, except that you can find the manufacturer liable even when it has not acted negligently. Strict liability applies to the product itself -- you would argue that even if the manufacturer were not negligent, the product was still unreasonably dangerous by design. As a result, you were injured through exposure to the product, and the result was your child's birth defect.