Australian woman reaches settlement with UK-based Thalidomide distributor
Lynette Rowe, 50, who was born without arms and legs, accepts ‘several million dollars’ from Diageo and Distillers
An Australian woman born without arms and legs has reached a multimillion dollar settlement with the British distributor of the anti-morning sickness drug Thalidomide, according to her lawyer.
Lynette Rowe, 50, of Melbourne, was born with the birth defects after her mother took the drug while pregnant. Thalidomide was given to pregnant women in the 1950s and 1960s as a treatment for morning sickness, but was taken off the market in 1961 after it was linked to birth defects. It led to deformities in thousands of babies across the world.
Rowe led an Australian class action against three parties: the German drugmaker Grünenthal, UK-based Distillers Company (Biochemicals) – which sold the drug in Australia – and Diageo Scotland, the successor company to Distillers. The lawsuit claims that Grünenthal should have known Thalidomide was linked to birth defects when it was on the market.
In the supreme court of Victoria state on Wednesday, Rowe’s lawyer, Peter Gordon, said his client had reached a settlement with Diageo and Distillers. Grünenthal declined to settle.
The exact terms of the settlement were confidential but Rowe’s lawyers said it was several million dollars. The lawsuit asked for compensation for the victims’ pain and suffering, lost wages and future medical care.
“This is a great outcome for a wonderful family,” Gordon said in a statement. “The amount of the settlement will remain private but I can say it is a multimillion dollar amount and will be sufficient to provide a very good level of care for Lyn for the rest of her life.”
More than 100 others who are part of the class action will also have their claims heard by Diageo, Gordon said. Rowe’s lawyers will ask for the trial against Diageo and the other defendants to be delayed from October until August 2013 to allow the company time to settle the pending claims, Gordon said.
Rowe smiled as she left the courthouse and said she was pleased others harmed by Thalidomide would now have the chance to seek compensation from Diageo.
“It is great that my case will bring about good things for other people too. It shows you don’t need arms and legs to change the world,” Rowe said in a statement. “Like I always say: see the person, not the disability.”
Diageo and Grünenthal representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Thalidomide lawsuits have been filed across the world over the years and all three companies have previously paid out settlements, many for millions of dollars. In 2010, the British government officially apologised to people hurt by the drug after earlier agreeing to pay £20m to Thalidomide’s victims.