The case of Reckis v. Johnson & Johnson is a victory not just for a young girl and her family, who endured unimaginable suffering and whose lives have been forever altered, but also for consumers nationwide.
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justices recently affirmed a $63 million judgment in favor of the family – $50 million for the girl and $6.5 million for each parent – following a case that began with a slight fever and a few doses of ibuprofen.
The girl was just 7 when she complained to her dad of a stuffy nose. He noticed she was warm too. Like countless other parents in the same situation, he purchased a bottle of Children’s Motrin, produced by a subsidiary of defendant manufacturer Johnson & Johnson. He read the label on the bottle and noted nothing alarming.
He gave his child two doses that day and the next morning, she still had a fever and sinus congestion. But she also developed redness on some areas of her skin. There was also crust in her eyes and nose. Nothing on the bottle indicated that these specific symptoms would be cause for any major alarm.
But in fact, the child was showing early signs of a condition known as toxic epidermal necrolysis, or TEN. It’s a life-threatening skin condition that is a reaction to ibuprofen. It’s rare – occurring only in about 6 out of every million people who take the medicine – but it was a reaction known to manufacturers.
Companies that used ibuprofen in its products were aware the condition could develop, and yet there was no mention of the condition or its symptoms on the warning label of the bottle. The condition can significantly worsen the longer it goes unnoticed and the more doses a person receives.
In this product liability lawsuit, it was alleged the company failed to warn against these dangers. As a result, the child continued to receive more doses of this medicine – by her pediatrician (who initially wrongly diagnosed her with measles) and then later by the hospital staff who cared for her when she was admitted once she became seriously ill.
During the entire ordeal, which lasted months:
- The girl suffered blisters all over her body, and an entire layer of skin sloughed off
- Her eyes were sealed shut and she bled from the eyes, mouth and lips
- Her breathing worsened and when she was admitted to the hospital, doctors finally properly diagnosed her and told her parents there was only a small chance she would survive
- She was placed in a medically induced coma for a full month
- She suffered heart and liver failure
- She was hospitalized for a full six months
- She suffered an aneurysm
- She suffered a cranial hemorrhage that resulted in seizures and required brain surgery
- Her lung capacity fell to 20 percent
- She became addicted to pain medication and suffered intense withdrawal symptoms while being weaned from them
- Her weight dropped to just 35 pounds
- She had to feed through a tube for two years
- She had to repeat the first grade and had to be carried from one class to the next
In the years since, she has been hospitalized multiple times with infections like pneumonia and bronchitis, to which she is more susceptible due to her weakened lung capacity and poor immune system function. She has been rendered legally blind. She cannot engage in any athletic activity and she will never have children. Her cognitive function too has diminished and she will require a lifetime of care.
Her parents, in addition to the enormous medical bills and emotional stress have had to give up jobs, raises and other professional opportunities to care for their daughter.
In the years since this occurred, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has required the pharmaceutical industry to include warnings of TEN’s symptoms on products containing ibuprofen.
In light of all this, jurors awarded the family $63 million. Manufacturer appealed on a number of points, including the validity of plaintiff’s expert witness, the assertion the amount of the award was grossly excessive and that the failure to warn claim was pre-empted by federal law. However, the state supreme court affirmed the award, finding no merit in any of these claims by defense.
If you or your child has suffered injury in Orlando as a result of a defective product or dangerous medicine, contacting an experienced law firm as soon as possible can help maximize your chances of economic recovery.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
Reckis v. Johnson & Johnson , April 17, 2015, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
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$1.3 Million Injury Verdict Upheld, Save for Prejudgment Interest, March 18, 2015, Orlando Injury Lawyer Blog