Couple sues Pfizer and St. Elizabeth's over twins' Zoloft-related injuries

Kelly Holleran Jun. 27, 2012, 6:45am


An Illinois couple claim the mother's ingestion of a popular anti-depressant during her pregnancy caused her twins to be born with heart defects.

Bernie and Lincoln Ratliff filed a lawsuit June 4 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against Pfizer and Hospital Sisters Health System doing business as St. Elizabeth's Hospital.

In their complaint, the Ratliffs allege their minor twins, Ronan and Reece Ratliff, were born on June 3, 2010, with various birth defects, including a hole in the chambers of the heart, repeated ear infections, wheezing, shortness of breath, a twisted neck, scoliosis, flattening on one side of their skulls and delayed milestones.

The Ratliffs claim their children were born with these conditions because of Bernie Ratliff's ingestion of Zoloft throughout her pregnancy. Had she known of the dangerous side effects of the medication, Bernie Ratliff would never have taken the drug, according to the complaint.

"Plaintiffs aver that Defendant's Zoloft was defectively designed, inadequately tested, dangerous to human health, and lacked proper warnings as to the true danger of birth defects associated with its use," the suit states.

The plaintiffs blame Pfizer for causing harm to their children, saying the drug's manufacturer should have warned them of the potential dangers to their unborn fetuses. In addition, it failed to provide the medical community with adequate warnings, failed to continually monitor the safety of Zoloft and failed to release the results of testing that revealed the dangers of the drug, among other negligent acts, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs allege strict products liability, breach of express warranty, negligence, misrepresentation by omission, negligent misrepresentation, fraud and misrepresentation, fraud by concealment, violation of consumer protection laws and breach of implied warranties against Pfizer.

They also name St. Elizabeth's Hospital as a defendant, saying employees there failed to recommend that Bernie Ratliff discontinue her use of Zoloft after she experienced bleeding during her pregnancy.

In their 10-count complaint, the Ratliffs seek unspecified compensatory damages, plus statutory remedies, pre-judgment interest, costs, attorney's fees and other relief the court deems just.

Christopher Cueto and Michael Gras of the Law Office of Christopher Cueto in Belleville will be representing them.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 12-L-297.

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