Glaxo lawyers move to transfer Paxil mass tort claim from Phila. to federal court

By Jon Campisi | Feb 15, 2013

Lawyers representing pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline have filed a notice of removal at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania seeking to transfer a Paxil mass tort claim that was originally filed at Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court to the federal courthouse in Center City.

Joseph E. O’Neil and Carolyn L. McCormack, of the Philadelphia law firm Lavin O’Neil Ricci Cedrone & Disipio, filed the removal notice Feb. 14 on behalf of their client, which manufactures, markets and sells the anti-depressant drug.

The underlying litigation involves a claim by Chicago residents Jerome and Melissa Weitzel, which was filed in Pennsylvania state court on Jan. 17, that alleges their son, Owen Weitzel, was born with birth defects as a result of his mother ingesting Paxil during pregnancy.

The Weitzels, who are being represented by attorneys from Philadelphia’s Sheller P.C. firm and the Cherry Hill, N.J., firm Williams Cuker Berezofsky, allege that Owen Weitzel was born in early December 1999 suffering from a variety of heart defects as an alleged result of his mother taking Paxil for her depression while she was pregnant with the child.

The couple, who filed their mass tort claim in the master Paxil litigation that has been consolidated at Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court, accuses the drug manufacturer of various counts including breach of warranty, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent misrepresentation, products liability and design defect.

The couple alleges that their son has suffered and will continue to suffer physical injury and that the couple has sustained economic damages, including medical expenses and loss of earnings.

The also claim their son has experienced loss of enjoyment of life and shortened life expectancy.

In their removal notice, the defense lawyers state that venue is proper in the federal court because diversity of citizenship exists and because the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional limit in a Pennsylvania state court.

The Paxil Pregnancy litigation that was consolidated at the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court is currently being overseen by Judge Arnold L. New, the coordinating judge in the court’s mass tort program.

The general allegation relating to Paxil litigation is that the drug, when taken by pregnant women, can cause a variety of congenital birth defects, mainly heart and lung ailments.

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