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Woman awarded $15M from AbbVie after suing over Depakote drug

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(Reuters) — A federal jury on Friday awarded $15 million to a California woman who blamed her son's birth defects on AbbVie Inc.'s bipolar disorder drug Depakote, in the latest trial to spill out of lawsuits over the product.

Jurors in federal court in East St. Louis, Illinois, awarded the compensatory damages to Christina Raquel, who said she was not adequately warned about a risk of birth defects when she took Depakote while pregnant.

Jurors will now consider whether to award punitive damages, a court official said. Her lawsuit was filed against Abbott Laboratories Inc., from which AbbVie was spun off.

AbbVie has assumed all rights and responsibilities for the drug. It has a mixed record in lawsuits over birth defects that plaintiffs have blamed on the drug.

Lawyers for Ms. Raquel did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did representatives for AbbVie.

In 2012, Abbott agreed to pay $1.6 billion to resolve federal and state claims that it promoted Depakote for uses that were not approved by U.S. health regulators.

Product liability lawsuits primarily focused on birth defects have mounted over the drug, and about 695 injury claims related to Depakote are pending in federal and state courts, according to AbbVie, which Abbott spun off in 2013.

In her lawsuit, Ms. Raquel claimed that her child, known in papers as E.R.G., was born in 2007 with birth defects after she took Depakote to treat her bipolar disorder while she was pregnant.

Ms. Raquel said Abbott failed to provide adequate warnings to her psychiatrists regarding the risk of birth defects associated with Depakote use.

Lawyers for the company said doctors were warned about the drug's risks. It also argued Ms. Raquel cannot prove Depakote caused her child's injuries.

Depakote cases have had mixed results in court. In 2015, a Missouri state court jury awarded 24 plaintiffs $38 million.

But a federal jury in Ohio in 2015 cleared Abbott and AbbVie of liability in another lawsuit. In February, another federal jury in Ohio returned a defense verdict.

The case is E.R.G., a minor, by Christina Raquel, individually as parent and next friend of E.R.G., v. Abbott Laboratories Inc., U.S. District Court, Southern District of Illinois, No. 15-cv-00702.