Antidepressants and Birth Defects: Do I Have A Case?

Antidepressants and Birth Defects: Do I Have A Case?

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed type of antidepressant medication on the marketplace. Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration has warned of an increased risk of birth defects in infants exposed to SSRIs in utero.

SSRI medications may increase the risk of a variety of birth defects, including “persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn” (PPHN), a serious heart condition. Personal injury lawsuits have been filed by families who believe that their child suffered complications due to exposure to SSRIs in the womb. Read more about these lawsuits at

While a defective product claim against the SSRI manufacturer can allow family members of an injured infant to recover full and fair compensation for damage caused by the birth defects, not every lawsuit is successful and not every mother or baby is eligible to make a claim.

Who can File an SSRI Birth Defect Case?

A plaintiff making a claim against the manufacturer of an SSRI medication must demonstrate that the manufacturer breached some legal duty or failed to fulfill some obligation to the plaintiff.  There are a number of different legal grounds plaintiffs can use in SSRI birth defect cases to argue the drug manufacturer is to blame. These include:

Strict Liability:

Strict liability rules say manufacturers of defective products and dangerous drugs can be held legally accountable even absent any negligence or wrongdoing, provided the medical drug or device causes unexpected harm when used as intended.

Negligent Design or Marketing:

Drug companies must be reasonably careful when they design, produce and market products. If the company makes an error in creating or producing the drug that results in a danger to patients, the drug manufacturer can be held liable.

Failure to Warn:

Drug companies have an obligation to alert patients to potential side effects and risks, so that patients can make an informed choice. If the SSRI manufacturer failed to inform patients that SSRIs increased the risk of birth defects, this can give rise to a case based on failure to warn.

Other Negligence:

Any time a company is unreasonably unprofessional or takes unreasonable risks in its actions, the company can be held liable by plaintiffs.

Regardless of whether the plaintiff makes these or other legal arguments in an SSRI birth defects case, however, there is one thing that a plaintiff always must show: causation.

You need Causation or you don’t have a Case

For an SSRI manufacturer to be held legally liable and made to compensate victims of birth defects, the plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the drug was the direct cause of the birth defects. This is called proving causation. Essentially, this requirement means plaintiffs must prove that more likely than not, the birth defect wouldn’t have happened but for the use of the medication.

Unfortunately, it can sometimes be difficult to determine exactly what the specific cause of a birth defect is. If there is a family history of heart problems in infants, for example, then the drug company could argue that the baby’s complications were caused by the baby’s genetics or that the health condition of the mother was the direct cause of harm.

The defendant in an SSRI birth defect case can avoid civil liability by simply showing the victim didn’t prove the case. This means a plaintiff will likely prevail in a case only if there is some medical evidence showing that the birth defect can be tied to the use of antidepressants.

Author bio: Christy Rakoczy earned her J.D. from the University of California in 2009. Today, she uses her legal background as an advocate for consumer rights and patient safety. You can read more of her work at Injury Lawyer News.