A jury award of $38M must be paid to a girl born with spina bifida, whose mother took the epilepsy drug Depakote, the Supreme Court of Missouri ruled this week. According to Law360, the ruling states that Abbott Laboratories Inc., the manufacturer of Depakote, failed to properly warn about the increased risk of birth defects associated with the drug’s usage during pregnancy.
In 2003, Maddison Schmidt was born with spina bifida and other birth defects, leaving her with severe cognitive impairments and brain malformations. Schmidt, now 14 years old, is paralyzed and lacks bowel and bladder control. The lawsuit was filed in 2012 along with two dozen other similar cases against Abbott, alleging the company did not warn expectant mothers about the severe risk of birth defects associated with the dangerous drug.
The product’s label includes warnings of an increased risk of birth defects, estimating between one and two out of every 100 babies will be born with spina bifida or other neural tube defects. However, Schmidt’s lawsuit alleges that the pharmaceutical company was aware of medical studies that showed the actual risk of a baby being born with spina bifida to be greater than 10 percent.
Schmidt was awarded $38M, and an appellate court affirmed the jury verdict in late 2016. On September 12, 2017, the Missouri Supreme court upheld the ruling.
Children born to mothers taking Depakote are also at an increased risk of developing structural issues in the heart, head, arms, and legs as well as having a lower IQ than children exposed to other anti-epileptic drugs. Because malformations to the fetus occur within the first 30 days of pregnancy, a period of time when a woman may not know she’s pregnant, it is oftentimes too late to simply stop the use of Depakote to prevent the risk of spina bifida or other birth defects from occurring.
Abbott faces thousands of similar lawsuits surrounding its anti-epilepsy drug. In another case similar to Maddison Schmidt’s, a 10-year-old boy born with spina bifida was awarded $15M from an Illinois jury. In this case, the boy’s mother was taking Depakote to treat her bipolar disorder when she became pregnant.
During the trial, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities took the stand as an expert witness for the plaintiff. He explained how the main ingredient in Depakote, valproic acid, greatly increases the risk of spina bifida developing in unborn children, and that doctors that prescribe the drug are not properly informed of the true risk of birth defects that the drug poses to pregnant women.
Spina bifida is a neural tube defect that occurs at birth, affecting the child’s brain, spine, and spinal cord. It occurs when the child’s spinal column isn’t closed completely during the first month of pregnancy. In serious cases of spina bifida, children can experience learning difficulties, intellectual disabilities, bowel and bladder issues, paralysis, and hydrocephalus.
If your child was born with spina bifida or other birth defects after you took Depakote during pregnancy, contact our dangerous drug attorneys immediately. Thomas J. Henry has handled many product liability cases and is experienced in pharmaceutical litigation, achieving real results for injured clients and helping them get the compensation they need. Your child deserves to be compensated for the pain and suffering they have been through and the years of extensive medical care that will be required for the rest of their life.
Our firm has the resources and experienced attorneys necessary to take on pharmaceutical giants and hold them accountable for their dangerous drugs. Attorneys are available 24/7, nights and weekends. Call us today for a free legal consultation.