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Thalidomide Group Happy with Ruling to Allow Discovery of State Documents

A legal hearing has been adjourned at the High Court until November following the filing of several thalidomide compensation claims.

Producers of the German drug Grünenthal GmbHT, which was introduced t the market as a sedative in Germany in 1957, are facing 26 compesation cases which have been brought brought against them and their Irish distributors TP Whelehan Son & Co, and the Ministers for Health and Environment – all of the whom deny the claims.

Claim have been submitted allegin that the drug caused deformities in unborn children when it was prescribed to their pregnant mothers. The claims relate to incidents that occurred dating back to the 1960s.

The High Court is currently reviewing whether the cases are statute-barred.

At the High Court yesterday the cases returned before Mr Justice Seamus Noonan, who has stated his unease about “the slow pace” of the proceedings. He (Judge Noonan) ruled on several requests issued by the defendants that the plaintiffs further particularise and answer questions about certain aspects of their claims.

The defendants taking the compensation case argue that they require the information from the plaintiffs in order to fully address the claims that are being taken against them. The judge agreed with this assertion and directed that the details smust be provided before  the matter returns before the court for further case management on 7 November.  Additionally Judge Noonan said that  the plaintiffs had a right to seek to discover documents from the State as part of their claim.

When the matter returns before the court in November Judge Noonan is due to deal with other preliminary matters, including the discovery of relevant material and issues over expert reports. Earlier the court was advised that lawyers for the plaintiffs claimed there were difficulties in obtaining medical histories and related files in order to progress the cases.

In a previous statement read out to the High Court, a spokesperson for Grünenthal said the company was “deeply sorry for what happened to those affected by the thalidomide tragedy. It’s important for us that we engage in efforts to improve the situations of those who are still living with the impact of these latter effects. We set up the Grünenthal Foundation to provide benefits in kind and financing for individual projects for those affected. Since its establishment, the Grünenthal Foundation has also approved more than 1,000 applications for individualised support in Germany and internationally.”

A spokesperson told the High Court that the Department of Health “can’t comment on an issue that’s the subject of ongoing litigation”.

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.