(Adds punitive damages verdict, comment from company, details)
By Nate Raymond
June 9 A federal jury on Friday awarded $15
million to a 10-year-old boy whose mother blamed his birth
defect on AbbVie Inc's bipolar disorder drug Depakote
that she took while pregnant, in the latest trial among hundreds
of lawsuits over the product.
Jurors in federal court in East St. Louis, Illinois, awarded
the compensatory damages to Stevie Gonzalez, who was born with
spina bifida. His mother, Christina Raquel, said she was not
adequately warned about a risk of birth defects when she took
Depakote while pregnant.
Jurors awarded no punitive damages during a second phase of
the trial, according to court papers. The lawsuit was filed
against Abbott Laboratories Inc.
AbbVie spun out of Abbott in 2013 and assumed all rights and
responsibilities for the drug. About 695 injury claims related
to Depakote are pending in federal and state courts, according
In a statement, AbbVie said in several prior cases, "juries
have unanimously found that Depakote’s label enables doctors to
make properly informed decisions about Depakote’s demonstrated
benefits and the clearly disclosed risk of birth defects."
Lawyers for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to
requests for comment.
In 2012, Abboutt agreed to pay $1.6 billion to resolve
federal and state claims that it promoted Depakote for uses that
were not approved by U.S. health regulators.
In her lawsuit, Raquel claimed that her child was born in
2007 with birth defects after she took Depakote to treat her
bipolar disorder while she was pregnant.
The lawsuit said Abbott failed to provide adequate warnings
to her psychiatrists regarding the risk of birth defects
associated with Depakote use.
Lawyers for the company said doctors were warned about the
drug's risks. It also argued Raquel cannot prove Depakote caused
her child's injuries.
Depakote cases have had mixed results in court. In 2015, a
Missouri state court jury awarded 24 plaintiffs $38 million.
But a federal jury in Ohio in 2015 cleared Abbott and AbbVie
of liability in another lawsuit. In February, another federal
jury in Ohio returned a defense verdict.
The case is E.R.G., a minor, by Christina Raquel,
individually as parent and next friend of E.R.G., v. Abbott
Laboratories Inc, U.S. District Court, Southern District of
Illinois, No. 15-cv-00702.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by David Gregorio
and Cynthia Osterman)