U.S. Judge Rejects Pharmaceutical Companies’ Attempt to Dismiss Thalidomide Cases

Judge rejects defendants’ statute of limitations argument at this stage of litigation

SEATTLE – In a decision impacting more than 50 lawsuits brought by thalidomide victims in the United States, U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond yesterday rejected several pharmaceutical companies’ argument that the statute of limitations has passed.

Attorneys at Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP represent dozens of alleged thalidomide victims in the United States, who claim their mothers were given the birth defect-causing drug while pregnant in the late 1950s and early 1960s, causing serious injuries including missing limbs and deformed organs. They claim that until very recently, they had no idea that their injuries could have been caused by thalidomide. However, new scientific and historical evidence suggest that thalidomide could have caused their injuries, according to the lawsuits.

The suits, consolidated in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania, allege that Grunenthal GMBH, the German drug company who invented thalidomide, in cooperation with American companies Smith, Kline and French, now GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK), and Merrell Richardson, now Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE: SNY), hid evidence of thalidomide distribution in the United States in the late 1950s, lying to Congress and creating a false historical narrative that the drug was blocked by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Judge Diamond’s decision clears the way for the more than 50 cases filed to move forward toward discovery, and ultimately trial.

Defendants argued that the statute of limitations prevented any claims, given that the alleged injuries occurred more than 50 years ago. However, the judge rejected the defense arguing that there is not sufficient evidence at this stage to dismiss the thalidomide victims’ claims.

“We think the statute of limitations was the defendants’ only chance of avoiding a full discovery process,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and attorney for dozens of thalidomide victims. “Now, we can begin to dig into the companies’ records and find out exactly what happened, and we are very confident those documents will confirm the allegations in our lawsuits.”

The lawsuits claim that the defendants owe damages to American thalidomide victims who suffered birth defects when their mothers were given the drug. It claims that the defendants knew, or were negligent in not knowing, the potential risks associated with giving thalidomide to pregnant patients.

Hagens Berman invites Americans who believe they may have been exposed to thalidomide in utero to contact the firm by calling 206-623-7292 or via email at [email protected].

More information about these lawsuits is available at http://hbsslaw.com/cases/thalidomide.


About Hagens Berman
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with offices in nine cities. The firm has been named to the National Law Journal’s Plaintiffs’ Hot List seven times. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at@ClassActionLaw.

Ashley Klann
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