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Motrin Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis Lawsuit Results in $63M Jury Verdict

A Massachusetts jury awarded $63 million in damages this week to a teenage girl and her family after side effects of Motrin allegedly caused her to suffered a severe and life-threatening skin reaction, known as toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN)

The complaint was filed on behalf of Samantha Reckis, who contracted the more severe form of Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) after she was given Children’s Motrin. Reckis, who was only seven years old at the time, was blinded from the reaction, lost nearly all of her skin and suffered severe respiratory damage.

Stevens-Johnson syndrome is a reaction that can be caused by several medications, where the skin begins to burn from the inside out, producing blisters, severe rash and the skin may separate from the body. When the skin lesions affect more than 30% of the body, the condition is typically referred to as toxic epidural necrolysis (TEN).

Treatment for Stevens-Johnson syndrome or toxic epidermal necrolysis typically involves inpatient care at a hospital Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or Burn Unit, and the conditions can result in death in more serious cases.

Reckis’s father began giving her Children’s Motrin in 2003 to treat a fever. After taking the drug, she then developed a rash, but her pediatrician told her parents to keep giving her Motrin, which made the condition worse.

According to the lawsuit, Reckis was blinded, lost 90% of her skin and 80% of her lung capacity due to the severe skin reaction. The lawsuit claims that Johnson & Johnson failed to provide adequate warnings about the risk of Stevens-Johnson syndrome or toxic epidural necrolysis from Children’s Motrin.

Following trial in the Superior Court for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the jury found that Johnson & Johnson and their McNeil-PPC, Inc. subsidiary failed to provide adequate warnings in connection with Children’s Motrin and that the negligence was the cause of Reckis developing toxic epidural necrolysis. The jury awarded $50 million in compensatory damages to Smantha Reckis for her injuries and an additional $6.5 million in damages to each of her parents under the claim for loss of their daughter’s consortium, including loss of society and companionship caused by the injuries.

The potential risk of Motrin skin problems are listed as a side effect on prescription-strength ibuprofen, but the lower-dose over-the-counter versions marketed as Motrin and Children’s Motrin do not contain the same warnings that the drug could cause Stevens-Johnson Syndrome or Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis. However, over-the-counter Motrin labels in some other countries do carry such warnings.

In May 2011, a Philadelphia jury awarded $10 million in a Children’s Motrin lawsuit brought by the family of Brianna Maya, a 12-year-old girl who has been left blinded in one eye and suffered burns over 84% of her body after taking the drug in 2000. In that case, the jury also ruled that Johnson & Johnson was negligent in failing to provide proper warnings about the risk of SJS and TEN from Children’s Motrin on the medication’s label.

In October 2011, a Los Angeles jury awarded more than $48 million to a man diagnosed with SJS after taking Motrin as a teen.

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