A jury has awarded a Massachusetts teenager and her parents $63 million in a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson and its McNeil-PPC Inc. subsidiary. Nearly a decade ago, Samantha Reckis suffered a life-threatening drug reaction that caused her to lose most of her skin after taking Motrin, Johnson & Johnson’s pain reliever for children. The jury ordered the companies to pay Samantha and her parents a total of $109 million, including interest.
Samantha was only seven years old when she was given Motrin brand ibuprofen. She suffered a side effect known as toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) and lost 90% of her skin and was blinded. She suffered brain damage that involved only short-term memory loss. Surgeons had to drill through her skull to relieve some pressure. The disease also seared Samantha’s respiratory system. As a result, she now has just 20% lung capacity.
The family filed the lawsuit in January 2007, alleging that Samantha was blinded by Motrin and alleging that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn consumers that the drug could cause life-threatening reactions. The five-week trial ended when the jury awarded $50 million in compensatory damages to Samantha and $6.5 million to each of her parents.
Samantha, now 16 years old, had previously taken Motrin without suffering any side effects. Her parents began giving her the medication to reduce fever that began the day after Thanksgiving in 2003. The resulting toxic epidermal necrolysis – a potentially fatal skin disease that inflames the mucus membranes and eyes and is marked by a rash that burns off the outer layer of skin — inflamed Samantha’s throat, mouth, eyes, esophagus, intestinal tract, respiratory system and reproductive system, forcing her physicians to put her into a coma.
TEN is a more severe form of Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS). Medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like ibuprofen), anti-gout drugs, penicillins and anticonvulsants most commonly cause the condition, according to the Mayo Clinic. Other infections like herpes, influenza, HIV, typhoid, and hepatitis can also trigger SJS. TEN is an absolutely devastating condition.
Samantha is an honor student, but she has had to work twice as hard as other students to retain the same amount of information. The Reckis family issued the following statement after the trial:
The Reckis family is forever grateful that this courageous and wise jury of twelve citizens of Plymouth County saw and declared the truth about what happened to Samantha in 2003: that Children’s Motrin caused Sammy’s life-altering injuries. Drug companies like Johnson & Johnson can no longer hide behind an approval by the overworked FDA as an excuse not to warn consumers about known, devastating drug reactions like SJS and TEN. Parents like us have a right to know. It was an historic day for consumer safety.
In a similar case in Pennsylvania, a girl was awarded $10 million in 2011 after an adverse reaction to Children’s Motrin caused her to lose 84% of her skin, suffer brain damage and go blind. Brad Henry, a lawyer with the Boston firm Meehan, Boyle, Black & Bogdanow, represented the Plaintiffs in Samantha’s case. He did a very good job for his clients in this case.
Sources: The Boston Globe and CBSNews.com
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