The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has affirmed judgement for a family awarded a total of $63 million in damages – including $13 million for loss of consortium — following a child’s severe reaction to multiple doses of Children’s Motrin.
Contrary to points asserted by drug manufacturer/defendant, the Supreme Judicial Court found the failure to warn claim was not preempted by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, that a pharmacologist who testified as to causation evidence was qualified to do so, and that damages awarded to the child and each of her parents were not grossly excessive or unsupported by the record.
This is a tragic tale of what can happen when medical labels we trust don’t contain the information we need. It’s also an important case in that it reaffirms that just because a company has deep pockets and extensive resources doesn’t mean it will prevail in civil court. The civil court system is one of the few places victims can expect an even playing field, and where large companies can be held accountable for failing to uphold its duties to consumers.
As our Montgomery personal injury lawyers understand it, plaintiffs in Reckis v. Johnson & Johnson brought the claim after a 7-year-old girl developed a condition known as toxic epidermal necrolysis after receiving numerous doses of over-the-counter Children’s Motrin. Her parents gave her the medicine to treat symptoms of fever and sinus congestion. The father read the warnings on the labeling, and there was no mention of any life-threatening condition that could be developed as a result of taking the medicine. On the contrary, it didn’t even mention that a rash was a sign of any major problem.
When the parents took the girl to the pediatrician the next day, after she started to develop more symptoms, the doctor diagnosed her with measles and recommended they give her more Motrin for the pain. But the next morning, her body was covered in blisters. Her eyes, mouth and lips were bleeding. She was rushed to the emergency room and given yet another dose of ibuprofen. Her condition worsened and doctors indicated she had little chance of surviving.
The child was placed in a coma by doctors for a month. Her heart and liver failed. She suffered a stroke and an aneurysm. She also suffered hemorrhaging in the brain that caused seizures and had to undergo brain surgery. Her lungs were at 20 percent capacity. Her eyes were inflamed. She suffered awful withdrawal symptoms when taken off the narcotics doctors had prescribed to ease her pain.
The condition she was finally diagnosed with was a direct result of consuming the Motrin. The skin disorder from which she suffered is rare, but it’s also life-threatening, and the manufacturer knew of the risk, evidence would later show.
The medication is available over-the-counter, with the primary active ingredient being ibuprofen.
Long-term, the girl needed to feed through a tube for two years. She required oxygen assistance at night. She repeated first grade. Teachers had to carry her up and down the stairs due to her small size (she was just 35 pounds when discharged from the hospital). She had to visit a school nurse every day to receive her lunch through a tube. Even at 16-years-old, during the trial, she weighed just 85 pounds.
She endured 12 eye surgeries. She is legally blind. Her lung capacity is so low, she cannot participate in any athletic activities and she will never be able to maintain a pregnancy. She remains optimistic about her future, but she suffers cognitive limitations, including memory loss. She’ll never be able to drive a car and will remain dependent on others for assistance in basic daily life function for the rest of her life.
Plaintiff’s parents filed a claim on her behalf and their own against the drug’s manufacturer and its parent company for failure to adequately warn consumers about the potential danger of developing a life-threatening disease from consumption.
Jurors found in favor of plaintiffs, awarding the child $50 million for her injuries and awarding each parent $6.5 million for loss of consortium.
Defendant appealed, but the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed. Each of defendant’s claims for reversal were defeated.
Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 334.396.9200 to speak with a Montgomery personal injury lawyer.
Reckis v. Johnson & Johnson, April 17, 2015, Massachusetts Supreme Court
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