Lawsuit About Birth Defects Caused by Birth Control Pills

In Duran v. Cullinan, 286 Ill. App. 3d 1005, 677 N.E.2d 999, 222 Ill. Dec. 465 (Ill. App. Ct. 1997), the plaintiffs alleged that a birth defect was caused by a birth control pill taken while the mother was pregnant. In discovery, the plaintiffs' experts submitted essays explaining the time frame of the mother's ingestion of the pill and the ordinary development of the nervous system during pregnancy, then stated that additional "supporting data for the causal connection between oral contraceptives and this unfortunate child's birth defects are extrapolated from a wide variety of defects appearing in the literature." Id. at 1001. The plaintiffs submitted forty-three epidemiological studies involving various birth defects and extrapolated the data from those studies. The essays additionally noted that animal studies indicate that oral contraceptives have significant teratogenic potential. The trial court granted the defense's motion for summary judgment. The appellate court reversed, holding that "the fact that plaintiffs' experts had to extrapolate from various studies in arriving at their opinion rather than rely on a specific epidemiological study affects the weight of the testimony and not its admissibility." Id. at 1013. The Illinois court determined that extrapolating data is acceptable even though the court recognized that this method in and of itself would not likely be subject to a study submitted for peer review.