Jon Campisi Aug. 15, 2013, 10:58am


The U.S. District Court in Philadelphia this week saw one of the first

transfers of an Effexor products liability claim against Pfizer and Wyeth since a federal judicial panel created a multidistrict litigation docket in which the claims would be consolidated.

On Aug. 13, a case initiated by Billie Sue Miles on behalf of her daughter, Kelsey Carolyn Miles, was moved from the Northern District of Mississippi to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe is overseeing the Effexor MDL in Philadelphia, which was chosen by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation as the venue where the litigation would play out.

Rufe also oversees a similar MDL in Philadelphia, the Zoloft products liability multidistrict litigation.

Records show that the Miles complaint was originally filed in December 2011 in Mississippi’s Tippah County Circuit Court.

Defense lawyers later removed the action to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, Western Division.

In her complaint, Billie Sue Miles, who resides in Tippah County, Miss., says that she was prescribed Effexor from at least Aug. 4, 2008 until December of that year.

She took the medication while she was pregnant with Kelsey Carolyn Miles, who was born on Dec. 23, 2008.

Like other complaints that make up the Effexor products liability claims in the MDL being handled at the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the Miles lawsuit alleges that neither she nor her healthcare providers were warned that Effexor, a drug used to treat anxiety and depression, causes birth defects and delays in “developmental milestones” in children whose mothers ingest the pharmaceutical during pregnancy.

The suit contains counts of strict liability and negligence.

While the Miles suit says that Kelsey Carolyn Miles was born with developmental delays and other birth defects, it doesn’t offer a lot of specifics with regard to the alleged defects.

The plaintiff claims she is entitled to both compensatory and punitive damages, the latter because the defendants allegedly acted with gross negligence and a reckless disregard for the safety of others.

The drug companies breached their duty of care by failing to adequately test and inspect Effexor in order to ascertain whether or not the product was safe for the purpose for which it was designed, manufactured and sold, and for failing to inform pregnant women of the dangers associated with Effexor if taken while carrying a child, the complaint states.

“The Defendants’ negligence is the proximate cause of all damages,” the lawsuit reads.

The plaintiff is being represented by Mississippi attorney Robert G. Germany of the Jackson law firm of Pittman, Germany, Roberts & Welsh LLP.

Pfizer is being represented by Mississippi lawyer Walter T. Johnson, of the firm Watkins & Eager, court records show.

Pfizer previously released a statement to the media in which it defends Effexor, a drug the company says has helped many people deal with their anxiety and depression.

Company officials have vowed to “vigorously” fight the products liability complaints in court.

In a filing in response to the Miles suit, defense attorneys wrote that the plaintiff’s claims may be barred because the daughter’s alleged injuries, if any, “were actually or proximately caused, in whole or in part, by the intervening or superseding conduct of Plaintiffs, independent third parties, or events that were extraordinary under the circumstances, not foreseeable in the normal course of events, or independent of or far removed from Pfizer’s conduct or control.”

That document, which was filed in late April 2012, came in the form of Pfizer’s answer and affirmative defenses to the Miles complaint.

The federal case number is 2:13-cv-04682-CMR.

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