Eli Lilly Pays for DES Damages…Again

Suzanne B. Robotti
Suzanne B. Robotti Executive Director
Last updated:

A major win for DES daughters – Eli Lilly settled with the Melnick family on the claim that DES given to their mother during their four pregnancies caused the breast cancer that each of the four experienced between the ages of 47 and 52. The Melnick family was a test case. Fifty other cases of women exposed prenatally to DES now diagnosed with breast cancer are in line behind the Melnick case.

I’m a DES daughter. And back in the 1980s and early 90s I was part of a group of cases against Eli Lilly and all the other manufacturers of DES. I was not the lead case, as the Melnick family is. I was in the line following. I believe that there were thousands of cases like mine.

The case for the Melnick sisters seemed good to me – though I’m not an attorney. There are many aspects to the case, but briefly, there are five sisters, one sister was not exposed to DES prenatally, the other four were. The four daughters who had been exposed to DES experienced infertility issues and breast cancer; the non-exposed daughter did not. The case was not perfect, the Melnick family could not identify with certainty that Eli Lilly was the manufacturer of the DES.

There were risks with going to trial, as there are with any trial. No matter how solid a case may seem at the outset, juries are unpredictable. If the case had been decided against the Melnick family the repercussions for the fifty cases behind the Melnicks would have been seismic.  The cases would likely not have been able to go forward, once there is a decision against the basic claim no lawyer is going to waste time attempting to argue it down.

Taking the settlement was the safest decision to benefit the fifty other cases and the ones to follow. I don’t know the details of any of the cases, but I feel confident saying that many of these women need the Eli Lilly money because of the medical expenses brought on by Eli Lilly and DES exposure. Money can’t compensate for pain, fear, and careers lost. Money can’t compensate for disfigurement and missing body parts. But it can lift families from crushing medical debt and pay for living and household expenses needed by women and their families still suffering from the effects of breast cancer.

I received settlement money from Eli Lilly and many other, smaller, companies back in the1980s for DES damages. I was in my twenties and early thirties, infertile but bless-fully cancer-free. We didn’t know then that DES would continue to plague us, put us daughters at higher risk for breast cancer as we aged. If I were to develop breast cancer now I imagine the papers I signed back then would keep me from being able to sue Eli Lilly, et al, for the new damages.

I am glad that these women and their families will receive some financial compensation for the cancer they suffered.

But if only….if only we DES daughters could have had the satisfaction of hearing a judge slam down a gavel and intone, “Eli Lilly, guilty as charged.”


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