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Lynette Rowe Wins Thalidomide Compensation

July 18, 2012

An Australian woman leading a class action lawsuit has reached a multi-million settlement with the British distributor of an anti-morning sickness drug that she says caused her birth defects, her lawyer said.

Lynette Rowe, 50, of Melbourne, was born without arms or legs after her mother took the drug thalidomide while pregnant.

Thalidomide was given to pregnant women in the 1950s and 1960s as a treatment for morning sickness, but was removed from the market in 1961 after it was linked to birth defects. It led to deformities in thousands of babies across the world.

Ms Rowe led the Australian class action against three parties – German drug-maker Grunenthal, UK-based Distillers Company (Biochemicals), which sold the drug in Australia, and Diageo Scotland, the successor company to Distillers.

The lawsuit claims Grunenthal should have known thalidomide was linked to birth defects when it was on the market.

Ms Rowe’s lawyer, Peter Gordon, told Victoria Supreme Court his client had reached a settlement with Diageo and Distillers. Grunenthal declined to settle.

Exact terms of the settlement were confidential, but Ms 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,” Mr Gordon said. “The amount of the settlement will remain private but I can say it is a multi-million 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, Mr Gordon said. Ms 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, Mr Gordon said.

Ms Rowe smiled as she left the court 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,” she said in a statement. “Like I always say, see the person, not the disability.”

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