Wilson & Ors v Bayer Pharma AG & Ors [2022] EWHC 670 (QB) (23 March 2022)

Primodos, a hormone based pregnancy test (“HPT”), first became available in the UK in 1959. It was very different from the simple home pregnancy tests now widely available. The user took two pills the combination of which induced menstruation in those who were not pregnant but not in those who were. [1]

Over time, concern grew that Primodos may have been responsible in some cases for causing congenital malformations, miscarriages and stillbirth. It was eventually withdrawn from the market in 1978. [2]

Proceedings were brought by plaintiffs alleged to have suffered injury caused by Primodos against the first and second defendants in September 1977 as manufacturers and UK marketers of the drugs respectively. Those proceedings, however, were discontinued in July 1982 with the leave of the court. It was left open to the plaintiffs to apply subsequently for leave to bring further actions but only in the event of a scientific revolution or marked change in circumstances. [3]

The present proceedings comprise two tranches of claims in which the lead claimants are Sarah Wilson and Andrew Forshaw respectively. The Wilson claim form was issued on 23 December 2019 and the Forshaw claim form on 2 July 2021. Altogether, 231 claimants have brought their claims under one or other of these claim forms. [4]

The firm of solicitors representing the claimants was PGMBM Law Limited (“PGMBM”). Their initial enthusiasm for pursuing the litigation was evident and the firm’s website stated: “PGMBM is committed to making sure all victims are compensated for the avoidable pain and suffering they have been forced to endure.” [5]

This initial enthusiasm has since waned and as from 21 January 2022 PGMBM terminated the retainers of a cohort of 183 claimants who wished to continue with their claims. Their retainers with remaining 48 claimants, who now wish to discontinue their claims, persist solely for the purpose of applying for and achieving such discontinuance. [6]

PGMBM now apply to this court (i) to come off the record and (ii) for permission for the 48 claimants to discontinue. The circumstances in which these developments have taken place are covered by legal professional privilege and so I will make no reference to such matters in this judgment. This also explains why I ordered that the hearing should take place in private and in the absence of the defendants. [7]

I grant the applications to come off the record and for discontinuance [23]