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Stevens Johnson Syndrome Award Could Be $130 Million with Interest

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Boston, MAIt came down to a handful of spoonfuls: just a few innocent doses of Children’s Motrin and suddenly a 7-year-old girl was hurled onto an unrelenting path of pain and suffering that has left her legally blind and unable to have children of her own. That was in 2003. Today Samantha Reckis is 19 and continuing to face a lifetime of hardship following a horrific bout with the darker side of Stevens Johnson Syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN).

In April the highest court in Massachusetts ruled that a $50 million judgment for pain and suffering awarded to Reckis will stand following an appeal by McNeil-PPC and Johnson & Johnson. Reckis’ parents each receive $2.5 million for loss of consortium.

Stevens Johnson Syndrome is a horrific allergic condition that is often triggered by medication - although many an SJS lawsuit has alleged there were insufficient warnings on product labeling suggesting a risk for Stevens Johnson Syndrome rash and the horrible symptoms such a seemingly innocent rash can morph into, as the Reckis family soon discovered.

According to court documents, Richard Reckis gave his daughter doses of Children’s Motrin for fever and congestion at 2 pm, and again at 10 pm on the day in question, in 2003. The next morning, 7-year-old Samantha awoke with a sore throat and what turned out to be a Stevens Johnson Syndrome rash, although it wasn’t identified as such at the time. She also had a sore throat, and her fever had not improved. A third dose of Motrin was administered.

Samantha was then taken to be seen by a pediatrician, who incorrectly diagnosed crusty eyes and cracked lips as symptoms of measles. The family was told to administer Motrin to the little girl three times daily.

A day later her rash had evolved into blisters and her lips were oozing blood. She was rushed to the hospital where doctors made the correct and devastating diagnosis: toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN).

That diagnosis put the child of seven onto a journey with indescribably horrific consequences. Within the coming weeks and months, Samantha would suffer painful blisters, and the top layers of her skin - a common symptom of TEN and SJS - sloughed away in sheets. The child was put into a medically induced, month-long coma to ease her substantial pain. Samantha suffered heart and liver failure, an aneurysm and even a stroke.

At seven, she became addicted to painkillers.

Samantha survived Stevens Johnson Syndrome and TEN, but the effects have been lasting and dramatic. At times she required a feeding tube for nourishment and was 82 pounds by the time she was 16. At a time when most teens are active in extra-curricular activities and such, Samantha cannot play sports. She will also never bear children, according to her doctor.

After undergoing no fewer than 12 surgeries to her eyes, Samantha has been left legally blind.

Needless to say, given the suffering endured by their daughter, the Reckis family launched a Stevens Johnson Syndrome skin disease lawsuit against Motrin manufacturer McNeil-PPC and its parent company, Johnson & Johnson, claiming breach of warranty, negligence, loss of consortium and emotional distress.

A jury ruled for the plaintiffs and awarded $50 million to Samantha and $6.5 million for each of her parents. Incredibly, even in view of the child’s suffering, McNeil appealed the verdict.

In April, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld the verdict as well as the original damage awards.

“This is not a case in which there is ‘no way of knowing’ the basis for the jury’s verdict; we are reasonably confident that the jury did not base liability on the defendant’s failure to warn of SJS (Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a similar condition) or TEN by name,” Justice Margot Botsford wrote for the court.

Justice Botsford took note of Samantha’s incredible optimism even in the face of her past and current suffering. “The jury could applaud this optimism but nevertheless reasonably infer from the significant extent of Samantha’s past pain and suffering, and the state of her health, that she will likely experience pain and suffering throughout her life,” Botsford wrote.

It is not known if McNeil-PPC would appeal the verdict to the US Supreme Court. The Boston Globe (4/17/15) reports that one of the family’s Stevens Johnson Syndrome lawyers suggested that with interest, the original award has now grown to $130 million. Including surgeries to her eyes, Samantha in total has endured between 75 and 100 surgeries.

All - allegedly from a few spoonfuls of Motrin…

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READER COMMENTS

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my grandson also was given a drug was taken back his dr. she said he was having a reaction, sent him home the next morning he could not move. he had blisters in his mouth and body. He was taken to the E.R. admitted to the burn unit. We were told there is not anything legal can be done. he has scars all over and more.

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