A Pennsylvania judge has denied a motion for a new trial filed by Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. in a suit involving a child’s birth defects. The jury had awarded $11 million to the parents on behalf of their child who the jury found to have suffered birth defects due to the company’s epilepsy drug Topamax. Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge George Overton addressed a wide range of concerns raised by the Johnson & Johnson unit following the November jury verdict. He concluded that the jury was properly instructed and had reached a fair conclusion. In the case, the Plaintiffs’ 5-year-old child developed a cleft palate and other defects after being exposed to Topamax during his mother’s pregnancy. Judge Overton said in his order:
This verdict does not shock this court’s sense of justice nor does it demonstrate the jury was influenced by partiality, prejudice, mistake or corruption. Rather, this verdict shows the jury made an informed and educated finding based on the facts and evidence presented at trial.
In April, Janssen settled 76 Philadelphia cases in which Plaintiffs alleged that the anti-epilepsy and migraine drug led to birth defects. There are 58 Topamax cases still active in the Philadelphia mass tort docket, with one trial currently scheduled this month. Janssen appealed the November ruling in the immediate case to the Pennsylvania Superior Court in January.
The motion filed in the current case included Janssen’s concerns that the Plaintiffs’ negligent failure-to-warn claims should have been preempted by federal law. The company also said the testimony at the trial did not properly establish causation between the drug and the child’s injuries. There were also statute-of-limitations arguments. But the judge rejected all of these arguments. He said that U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of a drug did not preempt state-law failure to warn claims, and added that the jury was not tasked with ruling on the question of preemption, but solely negligence in failure to warn.
Judge Overton also found that the testimony of the prescribing physician in the case was sufficient to demonstrate causation and that the jury had been properly instructed on the subject. In addition, he rejected Janssen’s arguments that the claims should have been barred by Pennsylvania’s two-year statute of limitations, finding that there was legitimate uncertainty about when the Plaintiffs became aware of the child’s injuries.
As a consequence, the jury verdict, which was initially $10.95 million before being increased by another $700,000 for delay damages, will stand, until the Superior Court takes up the case. The verdict is the largest of several costly awards absorbed by Janssen in the last year over Topamax — it was hit with a $3 million verdict in March and a $4 million verdict in October of last year.
The Plaintiffs are represented by Shelley V. Hutson, Blake A. Deady and Scott A. Love of Clark Love & Hutson, a firm located in Houston, Texas. The case is Gurley et al. v. Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceutical in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County.
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.