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Brian D. Witzer Obtains First Verdict Against Johnson & Johnson in This Type of Lawsuit

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011


On October 3, 2011, a Los Angeles jury returned a record-setting verdict against Johnson & Johnson and their fully owned subsidiary McNeil Consumer Healthcare for $48.2 million, with pre-interest and cost of judgement is expected to reach 60 million dollars. Law Offices of Brian D. Witzer represented Christopher Trejo, now 22 years old, in a trial that resulted in general, special and punitive damages against the pharmaceutical giant. The verdict was based on findings of malice towards the consumers of the over-the-counter drug Motrin, specifically for not putting a warning label on the product that could have spared Trejo’s and others’ health. This is believed to be the first verdict of its kind involving punitive damages associated with this over-the-counter temporary pain reliever.

At age 16, Trejo, after taking Motrin as directed on the label for less than one week, contracted a drug-induced reaction called Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN). It caused a severe inside-out exfoliating reaction affecting all of his mucosal membranes, which is equivalent to second- and third-degree burns over 100% of his body. The TEN reaction also caused severe pulmonary damage, near-blindness, infertility, whole-body scarring and a hypoxic brain injury. Trejo’s abilities to see, hear, smell, taste and touch have been severely diminished.

Attorney Brian Witzer presented testimony from the burn surgeon at Shriner’s Burn Center who saved Christopher’s life that, in his opinion, TEN is 100% attributed to the active ingredient in Motrin and has been known for years to cause serious skin reactions, including Stevens Johnson Syndrome (SJS) and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN). Experts addressed each of Trejo’s injuries as well as the causal link between TEN and his injuries.

After hearing the evidence, the jury found that the labeling on Motrin was inadequate and should have been changed years earlier to properly educate and alert consumers to the developing signs of severe reactions, which include skin reddening, rash and blisters. Early detection and treatment of these symptoms can prevent TEN or SJS.

Johnson & Johnson denied any connection to the product, even though the company owned the Trademark and has represented on its own website that Motrin is its product. Although Johnson & Johnson claimed to be “only a holding company,” the jury unanimously found that it was an integral part of the marketing of Motrin, with its own attorneys on crucial committees.

The verdict included $9,476,220 for Trejo’s past and future medical expenses and $1,925,000 for his future loss of earnings. Additionally the jury awarded $21,166,660 for his pain and suffering, which included a shortened life expectancy.

The punitive damages against both Johnson & Johnson and their subsidiary McNeil totaled an additional $15,625,000. The total verdict was just under $48.2 million, which will be close to $60 million due to pre-judgment interest and costs to which the Plaintiff is entitled.

For more information on the details of the case, please contact Brian D. Witzer at 310-777-5999.

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