High Court adjourns 26 cases over Thalidomide drug to November

High Court adjourns 26 cases over Thalidomide drug

The High Court has adjourned several claims for compensation over the use of the drug Thalidomide to a date in November to allow for further case management.

Twenty-six cases are being brought against the manufacturers of the drug, German firm Grunenthal GmbH, the Irish distributors, TP Whelehan Son & Co, and the Ministers for Health and Environment.

Thalidomide, which was launched as a sedative in Germany in 1957, is alleged to have caused deformities in unborn children when it was given to their pregnant mothers. The alleged wrongdoing dates back to the 1960s and the defendants deny all the claims.

The actions have been case managed on their way to trial for the last few years and a preliminary issue yet to be determined is whether the cases are statute barred.

The cases on Wednesday returned before Mr Justice Seamus Noonan, who has expressed his concern about “the slow pace” of the proceedings. He ruled on several requests made by the defendants that the plaintiffs further particularise and answer questions about certain aspects of their claims. It is argued that the information is required to fully meet the claims.

The judge said the defendants were entitled to most of the further particulars sought. He said the information in question should be provided in advance of the matter returning before the court on November 7th.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Noonan said the plaintiffs had a right to seek to discover documents from the State as part of their claim. He said he would also deal with other preliminary matters, including the discovery of relevant material and issues over expert reports, when the matter returns before the court.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs claimed there were difficulties in obtaining medical records in order to progress the cases. They also claimed the defendants were causing delays by making various applications in advance of trial.

John Stack, chairman of Thalidomide Ireland, which supports the claims, said the group was pleased to learn that the plaintiffs had a right to discover State documents as part of their case.