Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, McNeil, have been ordered to pay $63 million to Samantha Reckis for failure to warn that its Children’s Motrin could potentially cause life-threatening reactions. The ruling came after a five week-long trial in a case that was filed by the Reckis family in 2007. At the time, 7 year-old Samantha, who had previously taken Children’s Motrin without suffering any side-effects, was given the drug the day after Thanksgiving of 2003, in order to reduce a fever. The result was that Reckis developed toxic epidermal necrolysis, a potentially fatal skin condition that causes the cell death of the top layer of skin, which then peels off in large patches.
The condition most severely affects the mucous membranes; however, for Samantha, it caused inflammation of the throat, mouth, eyes, esophagus, intestinal tract, respiratory system, and reproductive system. Doctors were forced to put her in a coma and she suffered short-term memory loss resulting from brain damage. She was left legally blind, and now lives with only 20% lung capacity due to the damage to her respiratory system.
Though the condition is rare, it is known to be a reaction to certain drugs, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as Motrin, a.k.a. Ibuprofen). Reckis’s attorneys argued that the medicine bottle had only a small technical warning, and did not warn consumers of potential adverse side effects. Clearly the Massachusetts court agreed, awarding Samantha $50 million and each of her parents $6.5 million. And, according to the Boston Globe, the amount could potentially be increased to $109 million after the trial judge reviews the awards. Her family said the verdict was an “historic day for consumer safety.”
The Children’s Motrin and other Ibuprofen labels currently include the warning that the drugs may cause “a severe allergic reaction,” per a 2005 FDA mandate to amend their warning labels.
Alisha Mims is a Content Management Specialist for Levin, Papantonio law firm, a writer, and contributor to Ring of Fire.