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Ohio Decision Against DES Daughters

An update on the ongoing efforts for compensation
from drug companies who produced DES

Shielding the defendant drug companies ...

by Pat Cody
Berkeley, California

This article by DES Action president Pat Cody describes how the research done into the effects of DES (Note: It has been known since 1971 that DES (diethylstilbestrol), a synthetic hormone drug, causes cancer in women exposed in-utero.) has served as a model for study of exposure to pollutants around the world that have estrogenic effects.

DES daughters (Note: It has been known since 1971 that DES (diethylstilbestrol), a synthetic hormone drug, causes cancer in women exposed in-utero.) in Ohio cannot sue the drug companies for compensation unless they name the specific maker of the DES their mothers took, according to a ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court on June 30. In a narrow 4 - 3 decision, Justice Deborah Cook wrote that "We recognize that the DES plaintiff who, without fault, is unable to identify the manufacturer responsible for her injury... engenders sympathy. It is, however, the role of the court to interpret the law, not to legislate."

The three justices who voted to use the market-share liability principle in DES cases, as is done in a number of states and allows a suit without naming an exact manufacturer, wrote a strong dissent. Justice Andy Douglas stated that "The majority, by today's decision, rings the death knell for most of the DES litigation in Ohio. This prescription by the majority is the functional equivalent of saying: 'Take two aspirin and do not call us in the morning.'"

A second dissenting Justice, Paul Pfeifer, added that "...the majority is more comfortable shielding the defendant drug companies than with applying a theory of discovery that would allow the plaintiffs to go forward with their case. DES-injured women will have to content themselves with knowing that they 'engender sympathy.'"

Attorney Marie Wheeler, who represented DES daughter June Sutowski, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper that her firm represents 230 daughters with similar cases. She said that "This decision cuts off the rights of women who, before they were even born, were damaged. ...This is nothing but another way for pharmacy companies to excuse their own negligent behavior."

Shielding the defendant drug companies ..."

Pat Cody is founder and president of DES Action. DES Action's web site is at This article reprinted with permission from the DES Action Voice newsletter.

Published in In Motion Magazine August 1, 1998.