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$63 Million SJS Lawsuit Award Upheld

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Boston, MAA multimillion-dollar award in an SJS lawsuit has been upheld by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The Stevens Johnson Syndrome lawsuit alleged a young girl suffered toxic epidermal necrolysis - a more severe form of Stevens Johnson Syndrome - after using Children’s Motrin. The plaintiffs claimed Johnson & Johnson, makers of Children’s Motrin, failed to warn about the risks associated with the medication.

According to court documents, Samantha Reckis was seven years old when she was given Children’s Motrin for fever and sinus congestion in 2003. As her condition worsened, she was given more doses of the medication, until she was diagnosed at the hospital with toxic epidermal necrolysis. Reckis spent months in and out of the hospital - including a month in a medically induced coma - lost almost all her skin, became blind and suffered permanent damage to internal organs, including her lungs. She also suffered liver and heart failure, seizures and a stroke, and has undergone more than 75 surgeries.

In 2013, a jury agreed with Reckis that Johnson & Johnson did not adequately warn about the risk for a severe allergic reaction to Children’s Motrin, which might have prevented the family from continuing to give her Motrin as her condition grew worse. The lawsuit noted that prescription Motrin did have a warning about Stevens Johnson Syndrome, but the children’s over-the counter version did not have such a warning. The family argued that if the drug had such a warning they would not have given her more of the drug and they would not have let the doctors continue with it.

Stevens Johnson Syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis are severe allergic reactions to medications such as ibuprofen and Zithromax. It is not known what causes them, and they can appear at any time, even in reaction to previously tolerated medications. Patients experience severe blistering of the skin, possible loss of skin, scarring of internal organs and damage to the eyes.

The jury in the Reckis lawsuit awarded Samantha $50 million, and each of her parents $6.5 million.

Johnson & Johnson disagreed with the verdict at the time and filed an appeal, saying it stood behind its medication’s label. But the Supreme Judicial Court rejected the drugmaker’s claims, including its claim that the award was excessive. In upholding the award, the court noted that based on Samantha’s past pain and suffering and her current health condition, she would likely experience pain and suffering throughout her life.

The lawsuit is Lisa Reckis & Another v. Johnson & Johnson & Another, case number SJC-11677.

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