Hagens Berman Adds Five Cases to Thalidomide Litigation

Firm now represents 49 victims in case against drug manufacturer, others, citing new evidence

SEATTLE – Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP (HBSS) has filed a new case on behalf of five victims multiple German and North American companies alleging that they or their predecessors concealed the distribution of the drug thalidomide to pregnant women in the 1960s, allegedly causing birth defects across the United States.

The suit, filed on Aug. 7, 2013, brings the number of clients Hagens Berman represents to 49. The firm first brought attention to this matter when it filed its first lawsuit in 2011.

The most recent filing in state court in Pennsylvania names Avantor Performance Materials, GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK), Sanofi-Aventis  (NYSE: SNY), and Grünenthal GmbH as defendants, as well as some of their subsidiaries.

According to court documents, recent research suggests that thalidomide—a drug that caused thousands of horrific cases of deformities in children—caused far more deformities in the U.S. than originally thought.

Invented by German drug company Grunenthal, thalidomide was widely used throughout Europe during the late 1950s and early 1960s, resulting in thousands of deaths and extreme, disfiguring birth defects when used by women during pregnancy.

The drug was never approved for commercial distribution in the United States, but the new lawsuit filed today by HBSS on behalf of five individuals—all born with severe birth defects—alleges that as many as 2.5 million doses of thalidomide were distributed by more than 1,200 doctors to more than 20,000 people on U.S. soil, including pregnant women. The lawsuit is the latest in a series of suits filed by individuals who claim that their mothers were given thalidomide while they were in the womb, and who suffered serious injuries or birth defects as a result.

The lawsuit claims that Richardson-Merrell, a pharmaceutical company now owned by Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE: SNY) conducted large-scale “clinical trials” with thalidomide that involved more than 20,000 people, including pregnant women, in the early 1960s.

“We believe that there are potentially hundreds of victims still alive whose mothers were given thalidomide while pregnant,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and one of the attorneys for the alleged victims.

According to Berman, researchers initially concluded that thalidomide causes bilateral birth defects, such as two missing or shortened arms or hearing loss in both ears. As a result, babies born with unilateral defects, such as one deformed limb or hearing loss in only one ear, were not deemed thalidomide victims, even when their mothers were given the drug while pregnant.                 

The lawsuit claims new research involving thalidomide as part of a treatment regimen in cancer patients casts doubt on the theory that the drug can only cause bilateral defects.

“These thalidomiders had every reason to believe that they were simply born with severe birth defects, but new medical evidence and uncovered documents shed light on thalidomide’s role in their injuries,” said Berman.

The complaint claims that the defendants are either guilty of or liable for a civil conspiracy, failing to report and covering up evidence that thalidomide was harmful, especially when taken during the early stages of pregnancy. The lawsuit also says that the defendants were negligent in continuing to manufacture, test and distribute the drug.

Hagens Berman is seeking punitive damages against the defendants on behalf of the plaintiffs, as well as compensation due to economic losses and emotional distress from physical defects.

The firm is also continuing to research the case. Those with additional information or who believe they might have suffered as a result of in utero thalidomide exposure are encouraged to call Hagens Berman at 206-623-7292 or email the firm at Thalidomide@hbsslaw.com.

More information about the case can be found at www.hbsslaw.com/cases/thalidomide.


About Hagens Berman
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP (HBSS) represents consumers, whistleblowers, investors, workers and others in complex and class-action litigation. The firm has offices in ten cities and has been named to the National Law Journal’s Plaintiffs’ Hot List six times. Founded in 1993, HBSS continues to successfully fight for consumer rights in large, complex litigation against large corporations recovering numerous multimillion-dollar damages awards. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Visit the firm’s class-action law blog at www.classactionlawtoday.com.

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