Attorneys for 184 women argued in court today that 16 drug manufacturers hold full liability for any cancer or other abnormalities taken they have developed as a result of their mothers having takn the drug diethylstilbestrol, also called DES.
More than 100 of the plaintiffs attended the hearing before Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Roumell. Four dozen attorneys came to argue the drug companies' motion that the $625 million, 2 1/2-year-old civil suit be thrown out.
The arguments today turned on how much of the drug industry bears a responsibility for the damages alleged to be caused by DES. The drug, prescribed between 1947 and 1964 to prevent miscarriages, was banned in 1971 after vaginal abnormalities were found in women whose mothers had taken it.
Detroit attorney Lawrence Charfoos, arguing for the women, claimed that the drug firms had made, promoted and sold DES in a negligent manner and are responsible for all damages caused.
But Lane Bauer, defense counsel for Eli Lilly & Co., said it is "unprecedented" for plaintiffs to sue for damages without being able to "identify the products or the manufacturer."
That is difficult because DES was not marketed under a brand name and it was made and sold by several drug companies. Many prescription records have been lost or no longer exist.
The Wayne County lawsuit is the first major DES case in the country to reach this stage. The judge told attorneys today he will decide on the defense motion in about a week.