After nearly two full days of deliberation, jurors awarded $15 million to cover medical expenses for Stevie Gonzalez, a boy with spina bifida who has undergone at least 12 surgeries and must use a wheelchair.
His mother, Christina Raquel, said she was not adequately warned about the risk of birth defects when she took Depakote for bipolar disorder. AbbVie Inc. is facing over 700 similar Depakote lawsuits nationwide.
At the time Gonzalez was conceived, Depakote’s label warned about a 1-2% risk of having a baby with spina bifida. The label had not been updated since 1993, despite a number of studies linking Depakote and birth defects. Lawyers say it was outdated and misleading.
Experts now know that birth defects occur in 10-20% of babies exposed to Depakote. The FDA required stronger pregnancy warnings in 2006 and re-classified Depakote as Pregnancy Category X drug in 2013, meaning the risks to a baby clearly outweigh any possible benefits.
Outcomes in jury trials have been a mixed bag for plaintiffs and defendants. In November, judges upheld a $38 million jury award to a girl with spina bifida from Depakote. Three months later, drug-makers won a trial in Ohio after a jury cleared AbbVie of all claims of wrongdoing.
The next trial over Depakote birth defects is scheduled for July 24 in St. Louis, Missouri state court, followed by another trial in federal court in East St. Louis, Illinois in September 2017.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois (East St. Louis) — In RE: E.G. v. Abbott Laboratories — Case No. 15-cv-00702.