Jury Awards $63 Million In Motrin Case
On February 13 2013, a jury in Plymouth Superior Court awarded $63 million to the family of a girl who was severely sickened by Children’s Motrin, a kind of ibuprofen made by drug giant Johnson & Johnson. The girl and her family, who are from Plymouth, Mass., were represented by Bradley M. Henry of the Boston law firm Meehan, Boyle, Black & Bogdanow.
Ten years ago, when Samantha T. Reckis was seven years old, her parents gave her Children’s Motrin as a pain reliever after she showed signs of fever. Instead of getting better, the girl developed blisters and fatigue, which turned very serious. She was soon diagnosed with Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis, a rare but severe allergic reaction to certain medications, including ibuprofen. Almost a third of patients with this condition die, many others suffer blinding and other serious problems. Reckis spent months in and out of hospital; she’s now legally blind and gets exhausted from walking more than 150 yards.
Her attorney, Bradley Henry, said of her condition, “It’s like having your skin burned off of you. Imagine your worst sunburn times 1,000. It’s an absolutely devastating condition.” The family contended that Johnson & Johnson did not adequately warn consumers of this potential side-effect, such they knew to stop taking the drug at the first signs of symptoms. Henry argued the prescription version had just a technical warning on the bottle label’s fine print, while the over-the-counter medication contained no warning at all. The jury agreed, finding Johnson & Johnson and the division that makes the medicine, McNeil Consumer & Speciality Pharmaceutical liable; the girl was awarded $50 million, and each of her parents were awarded $6.5 million. This decision is awaiting review by the trial judge.
If the judge upholds the total verdict against Johnson & Johnson and McNeil Consumer & Speciality Pharmaceuticals, interest could bring the ultimate award to $109 million. While this is not the first time Johnson & Johnson has been found liable, the trial in Plymouth has yielded the largest financial penalty. In September 2011, a case in Los Angeles resulted in a $48 million judgment against the pharmaceutical company; in July 2011, a Philadelphia court awarded a $10 million judgement. Not surprisingly, Johnson & Johnson issued a statement disagreeing with the verdict; the company is weighing possibly legal options. Of Children’s Motrin, the family’s attorney said in closing, “We are not saying they should take it off the market. They just need to warn people.”
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