2 Dec 2013

$99m thalidomide class action settled

8:39 pm on 2 December 2013

A Bay of Plenty man who suffers from the effects of thalidomide has welcomed a $99 million, saying the money won't pay for missing limbs but will help victims cope as they get older.

During the 1950s and 60s, thousands of people were born without arms or legs, hearing or eyesight after their pregnant mothers took the drug to alleviate morning sickness.

More than 100 Australians and New Zealanders took part in the class action, which ended in a settlement worth $A89 million ($NZ99 million) in the Supreme Court in Victoria on Monday.

Law firm Slater and Gordon said it is not often that badly injured people can achieve justice five decades after they were wronged. However, the drug's German manufacturer, Grunenthal, has refused to contribute.

Terry Wiles lives in Papamoa in the Bay of Plenty and is one of thousands of children born with deformed limbs. He was not part of the legal action, but said the payout will help as survivors grow older and have to pay for specialist equipment.

Mr Wiles said he is disgusted by Grunenthal's refusal to pay up.

"I think their behaviour's been criminal. I would actually love to fly over to Germany and talk to them. I'm really angry because of all the men, women and children that have been affected by this - the mothers, the fathers, us - it shouldn't happen to any human being."

Diageo said it is sorry for the pain it has caused. Spokesperson Ian Wright said it would now focus on getting compensation to victims.

Lawyers say Grunenthal is also facing legal action in the United States, Britain and Spain.