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Chicago Federal Jury Finds Manufacturer of Children’s Motrin Caused $3.5 Million in Toxic Drug-Reaction Damages

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

On September 1, 2009, a unanimous federal jury in Chicago, Illinois, found that plaintiff Karen Robinson, a 40 year-old woman, sustained $3.5 million in damages after she suffered a dangerous drug reaction to Children’s Motrin. Children’s Motrin and Motrin are brand-name versions of the well-known painkiller and fever-reducer ibuprofen. Both products are manufactured by McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

The life-threatening condition that caused Karen Robinson $3.5 million in damages is called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, or SJS. Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, and its more severe form called Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis, or TEN, are drug-induced allergic reactions. They are both life-threatening disorders that attack the skin and mucous membranes of the body, and can cause blindness, organ failure and death.

The symptoms of SJS and TEN begin much like the flu: aches, fever, and a general feeling of not being well. These early symptoms are followed by skin reddening that looks like a sunburn, then by a painful red or purplish rash that spreads and blisters over the face, chest and back. Skin and mucosal membranes eventually fall off, leaving raw, open sores behind. Even after that skin and membrane damage heals, the victim often suffers extensive and disfiguring scarring. If the victim’s eyes were affected, he or she may be rendered blind; if the lungs were scarred, he or she may have chronic breathing and lungs problems.

SJS and TEN are almost always caused by a severe allergic reaction to over-the-counter and prescription drugs, including ibuprofen. SJS is often treated like a critical-care burn injury, because it causes blistering and skin loss of between 10% and 30% of the total skin on a victim’s body. TEN is the more severe form of the same toxic drug reaction: it causes over 30% of the body’s skin to burn and fall off. TEN is lethal for up to 60% of its victims.

Since the late 1970s, Johnson & Johnson and McNeil Consumer Healthcare have known that ibuprofen products such as Motrin could cause both Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and its more deadly form, Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis. Instead of warning the American public of the risks, and allowing individual consumers to make an intelligent choice about whether or not to use over-the-counter Motrin, these two companies simply carried on with business as usual. The verdict from this Chicago federal jury was a good step in the right direction toward holding these two corporate defendants accountable.

Mr. Witzer is especially pleased that the Chicago jury found that McNeil Consumer Healthcare was negligent in how it researched, developed and marketed Children’s Motrin, and that this inexcusable corporate negligence was the proximate cause of Karen Robinson’s massive $3.5 million damages. Mr. Witzer hopes this will influence and change the manner that these corporate defendants manufacture and market their ibuprofen products, and put an end to this long history of disregard for the safety of the American public.

This verdict also confirms and validates Mr. Witzer’s 2008 lawsuit against the same corporate defendants for Stevens-Johnson Syndrome caused by Children’s Motrin, where the jury likewise found that Children’s Motrin is a dangerous and defective product.

The Law Offices of Brian D. Witzer represents children and adults who have suffered Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis as a result of taking ibuprofen products like Motrin and Children’s Motrin. Brian D. Witzer is one of the leading SJS/TEN attorneys in the country. In July 2009, Mr. Witzer set a new record with a jury verdict of $6 million for his client, an elderly woman who developed SJS/TEN as a result of a toxic reaction to a prescription drug.

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