Verdict in Motrin Stevens-Johnson Syndrome Lawsuit Upheld on Appeal

A Pennsylvania appeals court has upheld a $10 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson in a Children’s Motrin lawsuit filed by the family of young girl developed Stevens-Johnson syndrome after taking the common medication.

In 2011, a Philadelphia jury awarded the damages to Brianna Maya, who suffered burns over 84% of her body after taking the drug when she was three years old, leaving her blind in one eye.

Last week, the Pennsylvania Superior Court rejected arguments raised by Johnson & Johnson, whose McNeil subsidiary makes the drug, that the verdict should be overturned because insufficient evidence was introduced linking the little girl’s injuries to the lack of warnings provided about the risk of Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) from Children’s Motrin.

Stevens-Johnson syndrome is a severe skin reaction associated with several medications, where the skin burns from the inside out, producing blisters, severe rash and the skin may separate from the body. This can result in the need for treatment in a hospital Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or Burn Unit, and the injury is fatal in many cases.

On appeal, Johnson & Johnson’s McNeil subsidiary cited a number of problems it claimed occurred during the trial, including allegations that Brianna’s attorneys tried to play off the jury’s sympathies by making the case sound like a “David and Goliath” battle between a little girl and a massive pharmaceutical company. However, the three-judge panel rejected all of the company’s arguments, noting that the jury sided with McNeil on a number of points, and even ruled in the company’s favor in determining that Children’s Motrin was not defectively designed.

The company has said it is again considering its legal options following last Tuesday’s ruling.

In February 2013, a Massachusetts jury came to a similar conclusion and awarded a teenage girl $63 million after she suffered SJS and TEN after taking Children’s Motrin as well. The plaintiff in that case, Samantha Reckis, was seven at the time, was blinded by the incident, lost nearly all of the skin on her body, and suffered severe respiratory damage.

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