An Australian woman born without arms and legs 50 years ago after her mother took the drug Thalidomide during pregnancy on Wednesday won a multi-million-dollar court settlement.
Lynette Rowe’s class-action victory in the Victorian Supreme Court will likely lead to more than 100 similar settlements with Thalidomide victims.
Ms. Rowe sued German pharmaceutical company Gruenenthal GmbH, its local distributor The Distillers Company, and Diageo Scotland Ltd, which took over Distillers in 1997, for the crippling effects on her of her mother taking Thalidomide to treat morning sickness.
The settlement reached with London-based Diageo provides for around 130 other Thalidomide victims to receive compensation.
Gruenenthal, which argued unsuccessfully in the Melbourne court that the case should be heard in Germany, is not part of the settlement with Ms. Rowe and her fellow Australian claimants.
The case against Gruenenthal will be taken up again in August 2013 unless there is an out-of-court settlement before then.
Peter Gordon, Ms. Rowe’s lawyer, called on Gruenenthal to take responsibility for what he termed the “world’s most publicized pharmaceutical disaster.” He alleged the company had “never tested the drug on pregnant animals or followed up its effect in pregnant women yet assured doctors the drug was exceptionally safe.” Ms. Rowe’s parents, who are in their 70s, said the compensation, a “multi-million-dollar amount,” was more than adequate for their daughter’s care.
“It’s great that my case will bring about good things for other people too,” Ms. Rowe said in a statement. “You don’t need arms and legs to change the world. Like I always say: see the person not the disability.”