California Court Finds Maker of Motrin May be Liable for Punitive Damages

pillsA California Appellate Court has ruled that a jury may decide whether Johnson and Johnson should be liable for punitive damages for injuries and deaths associated with its drug Motrin (ibuprofen).

The case involves a fifteen year old boy who had a severe reaction to the over the counter drug, motrin. Motrin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that may be purchased without a doctor’s prescription. The drug may cause a serious and sometimes fatal skin disease knows as Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) and a variant of that disease, Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN). The symptoms may include shedding of skin, blisters, hives, facial and tongue swelling, and skin pain. The boy claimed in his case, that the manufacturer of the drug failed to warn him of the risks and dangers of developing these diseases.

The young man had presented evidence to the court that the manufacturer knew of these risks but failed to warn consumers. He showed that Johnson and Johnson warned of these risks in foreign countries, but not here in the United States. In Germany, the company warned “of the side effects associated with this OTC product of rare but serious skin reactions, such as reddening and blister formation … which is bullous EM/SJS.”

In California, a drug manufacturer is responsible for the content of its label at all times. It must ensure that its warnings adequately warn of dangers associated with its drug as long as the drug is on the market. When there is a failure to warn of these dangers, the manufacturer can and should be held liable for the person injuries caused by its neglect.

As an Oakland personal injury lawyer, I applaud the court’s ruling. When manufacturers do not inform the consumer of the risks associated with its products, which it knows about and which can cause severe personal injuries, juries should be empowered to assess punitive damages to prevent such reprehensible conduct from recurring.


Johnson and Johnson v Superior Court, Court of Appeal Second District, January 20, 2011

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