The jury’s $38 million payout to Maddison Schmidt, a 12 year-old girl with birth defects, survived an appeal by Abbott Laboratories Inc. in November 2016.
Abbott lost that case — but yesterday, the drug-maker won a separate trial in Ohio after a jury cleared Abbott on all claims of wrongdoing.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys remain confident. They are gearing up for a big year with several Depakote trials scheduled for 2017. Around 800 lawsuits have been filed nationwide.
The Daily Hornet reached out to C.L. Mike Schmidt of The Schmidt Firm, PLLC, a law firm known to be following the Depakote birth defect litigation and he stated:
Although the Ohio jury verdict was an upset for the family devastated by this dangerous drug, the previous St. Louis verdict in the amount of $38 million was upheld in the appellate court, resulting in a win for the family in that case. I am very confident that as we move forward with this litigation you will continue to see victories on the plaintiffs side of these complex cases.”
The trial in Ohio involved a boy named “Z.H.” who was born with heart defects, genital defects (hypospadias), and developmental delays after his mother took the anti-seizure drug Depakote while pregnant.
Lawyers accused Abbott of selling a dangerous drug and failing to warn about the risk of birth defects. At the time Z.H. was conceived in 2002, Depakote had a “Black Box” label for spina bifida and a 10-paragraph warning about birth defects. Those warnings had not been updated since 1983.
Lawyers said the label was not only outdated, but also misleading. The “1-2% risk of spina bifida” on the label translated to a 2,060% risk, for example. And while the 10-paragraph warning claimed there was not enough data to determine the rate of other birth defects, Abbott failed to update it with data from multiple studies before 2002.
Depakote is now a “Pregnancy Category X” drug that is estimated to cause birth defects in over 20% of babies. It is by far the most dangerous anti-epileptic drug on the market to take during pregnancy.
Near the end of the trial, lawyers told the jury that developmental delays caused Z.H. to be born with an abnormally small skull (microcephaly). Abbot denied the label was inadequate overall, but also specifically. In fact, the company unsuccessfully tried to warn about developmental delays in 2005.
The FDA rejected those warnings until 2009, which is why “failure to warn” claims haven’t gone anywhere. It may also be part of the reason why the jury cleared Abbott entirely.
Depakote trial outcomes in the last two years have been mixed. In April 2015, another trial in Missouri ended with a defense verdict against Danny Kaleta, boy who was born with spina bifida in 1999. Abbott has also paid settlements in Depakote lawsuits before the jury could make a decision. In June 2016, the parents of a boy with spina bifdia named “B.F.” were paid an undisclosed settlement on the last day of a trial in Missouri.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio — In Re: Hutchens vs. Abbott Laboratories Inc. — Case No. 1:14-cv-00176.