A Chicago woman is suing drug manufacturer Pfizer for birth defects she says were caused by an antidepressant prescribed to her mother during pregnancy.

Angela Rife filed the lawsuit Dec. 5 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against Pfizer Inc., manufacturer of the antidepressant medication Zoloft.

According to the complaint, Rife was born in December 1991 with multiple congenital birth defects, including a cleft lip and cleft palate. Rife alleges her medical issues were caused by Zoloft, the antidepressant prescribed to her mother during her pregnancy.

Rife claims Pfizer knew of the dangerous side effects associated with taking the drug while pregnant. She says the manufacturer failed to properly test the antidepressant and failed to warn patients of the risk of serious birth defects. In the six-count complaint, Rife claims the drug manufacturer knowingly hid -- and continues to hide -- available information from patients.

Rife says Pfizer acted in a "willful, wanton and outrageous manner and with evil disregard for the rights of patients."

She accuses the company of negligent and careless breach of duty, fraud and misrepresentation. Rife is asking for more than $75,000 in actual damages in addition to punitive damages "in a fair and reasonable amount to deter Pfizer and others from engaging in the wrongful conduct."

Attorneys Michael J. O'Malley of Belleville and John J. Carey, Jeffrey J. Lowe and Andrew J. Cross of St. Louis are representing Rife. They ask for a jury trial.

St. Clair County Circuit Court Case No. 11-L-663

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