Thalidomide is a drug that was created in Germany and used from the 1950s into the 1960s by pregnant women to help these women cope with morning sickness. Unfortunately, this drug caused severe, life-threatening birth defects in the infants born to women who used thalidomide. There were thousands of infants who died due to exposure to this drug in utero.
Researchers have recently come to the conclusion there were more infants exposed to thalidomide than estimated and, as such, there are a greater number impacted individuals than was originally anticipated. While thalidomide was never given the green light for sale in the United States, a new lawsuit alleges that somewhere around 1,200 physicians here in the United States distributed the drug to more than 20,000 US citizens.
This newest suit, filed August 7 of 2013, is made up of five claimants who are bringing suit against both German and American companies. The claimants allege that these companies concealed this distribution, which resulted in an astounding number of infants born with severe deformities.
It was originally believed by researchers that infants exposed in utero to thalidomide only suffered from bilateral birth defects. Some examples of bilateral birth defects include, but are not limited to, two missing limbs, or alternatively, two significantly shortened limbs, or even loss of hearing in both ears. This meant that infants who had been exposed in utero, but only demonstrated unilateral birth defects were not counted among those negatively impacted by exposure to thalidomide.
Researchers now believe that unilateral birth defects demonstrated in infants exposed in utero to thalidomide, may also be caused by that exposure. This new theory came after looking at thalidomide and its use in treating cancer. Claimants of this new suit argue that opposing parties should be held liable for civil conspiracy. Claimants also argue defendants should be held liable for both failing to report and hiding evidence that clearly demonstrated thalidomide was harmful when administered during pregnancy. Finally, claimants argue that defendants are should be held liable for their negligence in manufacturing, testing and distributing thalidomide. Claimants are seeking both punitive and compensatory damages for the wrongdoings of defendants.
As of September of 2013, defendant companies had attempted arguing that the statue of limitations for such a legal suit had passed. Defendants argued that any such claimants were therefore barred from taking legal action. United States District Court Judge Paul Diamond, however, disagreed and held that claimants were entitled to proceed with their suit against defendants.
In December of 2013, in a different case involving both Australian and New Zealand claimants who sought justice from the parent company that distributed thalidomide settled for $81 million dollars. There were more than 100 claimants in that case.
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