Trial began last week in a Motrin lawsuit filed against Johnson & Johnson by a Honduran man who claims that side effects of the over-the-counter pain medication caused him to suffer toxic epidermal necrolysis, a serious and potentially life-threatening skin reaction that causes the skin to burn from the inside out.
The case was filed by Christopher Trejo in 2008 and the trial began last week in Los Angeles Superior Court after a number of legal battles over whether Trejo could pursue punitive damages. The lawsuit alleges that Trejo suffered permanent injuries due to toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), which is a more severe form of Stevens-Johnson syndrome.
The painful and debilitating skin reactions can be caused by side effects of several medications, resulting in burns, blisters, severe rashes and it may cause the skin to separate from the body. When the skin lesions affect more than 30% of the body, the condition is typically referred to as toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN). Treatment in a hospital Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or Burn Unit is often required, and the conditions can be fatal in many cases.
According to allegations raised in the Motrin toxic epidermal necrolysis lawsuits, Trejo developed the skin reaction in 2005, when he was 15 years old. He was hospitalized for days and was affected all over of his body. Since then he has had vision problems and problems with some internal organs.
The complaint accuses Johnson & Johnson of failing to warn consumers of the risks of TEN and SJS with over-the-counter Motrin, alleging that the drug maker misrepresented study results to the FDA and did not tell the agency the entire truth about the risk of SJS from Motrin when it asked to be able to sell the product without a prescription.
When the painkiller was prescription-only, it carried a warning about the risks of SJS. Although warnings about Motrin SJS and TEN side effects is included in some other countries, Johnson & Johnson still does not warn about the severe skin reaction from Motrin on packaging in the United States.
Trejo is seeking compensative and punitive damages. Earlier this year, a California appeals court determined that Trejo can pursue punitive damages after Johnson & Johnson claimed that federal regulations preempted any punitive charges.