N.H. Jury Awards $21 Million To Woman Claiming Pain Medication Caused Blindness

CONCORD, N.H. - (Mealey's) A federal jury in New Hampshire on Sept. 8 awarded $21 million to a woman who claims that her use of a generic version of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug Clinoril caused her to suffer Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS), which led to permanent injuries, including blindness (Karen L. Bartlett v. Mutual Pharmaceutical Company, Inc., et al., No. 08-358, D. N.J.).

The jury deliberated three days before finding that Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. Inc. was liable for Karen L. Barlett's injuries and that the manufacturer should have known that the drug was unreasonably dangerous.  U.S. Judge Joseph LaPlante of the District of New Hampshire presided over the trial.

In 2004, Bartlett was prescribed Clinoril to treat right shoulder pain. Her prescription was filled with sulindac, a generic version of Clinoril made by Mutual Pharmaceutical.

Within weeks, Bartlett was hospitalized and diagnosed with SJS that progressed to toxic epidermal necrolysis. She was hospitalized for about three months, including two in a medically induced coma, and more than 65 percent of her skin sloughed off.  Bartlett claims permanent injuries, including blindness.

Bartlett and her husband sued Mutual Pharmaceutical and parent company United Research Laboratories Inc. in the Rockingham County Superior Court.  The defendants removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire.

After motion practice, the remaining claims at trial were strict liability-design defect, negligence-design defect and enhanced compensatory damages.

Mutual argued that sulindac is an unavoidably dangerous drug under comment k of the Second Restatement of Torts, that the prescribing physician is culpable, that Bartlett misused the drug, that sulindac was a state-of-the-art drug and that the company complied with industry standards.

[Editor's Note:  Full coverage will be in the Sept. 16 issue of Mealey's Emerging Drugs & Devices. For all of your legal news needs, please visit www.lexisnexis.com/mealeys.]

For more information, call editor Tom Moylan at 610-205-1120, or e-mail him at tom.moylan@lexisnexis.com