total recall
May 14, 2012 1:26 PM   Subscribe

My friend became pregnant while taking birth control that Pfizer later recalled. She is young and not particularly internet savvy. She is keeping the child and she asked me to help her find a lawyer to explore a potential lawsuit against Pfizer and for advice on dealing with media interest in this story.

The local health department called my friend to inform her that she had received birth control from lots that were being recalled by Pfizer. She had recently discovered that she had become pregnant while taking the birth control. She saved all of her pill packaging and has all of the records from the health department. She is 19 years old and was headed to college in the fall. She is due to give birth in August. Friends and family have been telling her she has grounds to pursue litigation against Pfizer. Her coworkers have told her she could be on The View or The Today Show (which I could envision being a possibility given her personality but I have my concerns about this esp. after Rush Limbaugh's comments on Sandra Fluke). Because she views me as internet savvy, she has asked me for help. I would like advice on how to find the most appropriate legal representation and on potential consequences or benefits, legal/financial or otherwise, that could arise from getting involved with the media.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Try this.

The lawyers will handle any sort of publicity. Take their advice on it, don't just go on the View.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:29 PM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm not a lawyer, but she has to see any potential lawsuit as the primary vehicle for her dispute with Pfizer, not a media campaign. A media campaign is something that may happen in an attempt to spur a settlement with's a bargaining chip. But all of it will be done with the knowledge, direction, and counsel of her counsel.
posted by inturnaround at 1:30 PM on May 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

Lawyer first. Always lawyer first. Going to the media first has the potential of creating an arena where she might make public statements that would undermine her court case.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:35 PM on May 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

And she may either choose to join a class-action lawsuit or pursue an individual suit. Her first stop should be to see a local attorney with expertise in product liability cases.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:39 PM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh yes, lawsuit is the way to go. Since she has all of her packaging and information, she should see a good Consumer Attorney (not a class action attorney) as should the baby's father, as this impacts him as well.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:42 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Attorney first. Information disclosed to the media may prejudice her claims, so it is imperative that any communications of that nature be vetted by the same attorney handling the claim.

I believe that she should consult with an experienced attorney who handles so-called wrongful birth actions and related matters before communicating with class counsel (if any), as often the interests of individual non-representative plaintiffs are not squarely aligned with the litigation/settlement strategy pursued in a class action.

posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:49 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

IANYL. Yes, she should go to a lawyer in her jurisdiction who is experienced in "wrongful birth" claims.

I would NOT recommend that she go to the media, for several reasons. First, as others have said, she doesn't want to lose a bargaining chip. Second, I would encourage her to think about how her child will feel when the child realizes that not only did his/her mom not want the child but even sued over the child's existence and publicized that fact all over. Really think about how that will impact the child and her relationship with the child.
posted by McPuppington the Third at 2:14 PM on May 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Nthing get a lawyer before doing anything. Since she's keeping the child, she should also consider her/his feelings when s/he grows up and learns (or the cruel classmates learn) that mom sued the birth control company because she didn't want her/him. Especially before engages the media.
posted by jshort at 2:15 PM on May 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

If your friend and her lawyer ultimately decide to go to the media, please make sure she sees a counsellor or social worker first. If she doesn't get some help to process her own feelings about this pregnancy, she may be tempted to 'pour her heart out' to the first journalist who comes along. This is absolutely not in her best interests (or the interests of her child). Journalists are neither counsellors nor friends, but the less scrupulous ones will behave like both in order to get a great story. Your friend needs to be emotionally stable enough to stay 'on message' (the content of which will be determined by her lawyer) before she goes anywhere near a journalist. (I say this as a journalist who has chosen to drop stories where it was clear the interviewee should have been talking to a shrink, not me. Others are not so kind).
posted by embrangled at 4:04 PM on May 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

In keeping in mind the happyness of the child as he or she grows up, I would think going on the view would be a very bad idea. While a lawyer is probably not a bad idea (although I didn't think that birth control was considered 100% effective, so I don't know if there is any legal ground to stand on there), doing anything which publicly announces that the pregnancy was unwanted will most likely emotionally hurt the child in the future. Nowadays anything that has been said online will always be available, and children will surely find out anything that was press worthy about their parents. Imagine finding out that you weren't wanted by your mother. That would be a terrible thing.
posted by markblasco at 6:43 PM on May 14, 2012

I don't know if there is any legal ground to stand on there

Sugar pills were labeled as active contraceptive pills in many of the recalled packages. It's a pretty straightforward product liability issue--although oral contraceptives are not 100% effective in perfect use, sugar pills are 0% effective.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:29 PM on May 14, 2012

Although the recommendation to seek legal advice is an excellent one, she needs to be aware of the fact that some states do not recognize "wrongful birth" or "wrongful life" claims.
posted by yclipse at 7:41 PM on May 14, 2012

What she should do is get a reputable, very good and experienced personal injury lawyer - and prepare to have Pfizer pay all of her bills and all of her child's bills for the next 18 years. This sucks hugely for your friend but is basically a personal injury lawyer's wet dream.

Honestly, though, the picking the lawyer part is where this is likely to fall apart. You want the biggest, meanest, most famous, biggest win PI lawyer in your state, because both Pfizer and their insurers will be heavily and very well represented. You do not want to be represented by the guy who did Aunt Mabel's will here.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:45 PM on May 14, 2012

Agreed that getting involved with the media is very, very risky if she's keeping the baby. The internet remembers everything and it could really come back to bite her later on when the kid googles mom's name and comes up with this lawsuit about their own conception.

She very much needs to start thinking of how to address this with her child before she takes any further steps towards a lawsuit. Is she ok telling the kid that s/he was an accident?* Is she ok telling the kid that there was a lawsuit? How does she plan to reconcile the information that she loves the child (which she presumably does, or hopefully will at some point) with the information that she sued Pfizer for defective birth control pills? There are no right answers here, just things she really needs to think hard about.

*FWIW, my mom was upfront with me that I'm the result of a faulty diaphragm. It's never bothered me that I was an "accident" as from my mom's point of view the important part was that she loved me once I got here - the fact that she hadn't *planned* it has always been irrelevant, save for conversations about effective birth control and how the diaphragm might not be the best choice.
posted by sonika at 6:27 AM on May 15, 2012

« Older Please help with my major photo backup plan!   |   Python for screen-scraping? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.