Plaintiffs suffering from Topamax birth defects received good news when two recent cases resulted in combined compensation of $15 million for victims. In one of the two recent cases, the plaintiff was awarded almost $11 million in damages from Janssen Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of Topamax and a division of Johnson & Johnson. In the second case, $4.02 million was awarded to a family whose child was born with a cleft palate after his mother took Topamax while pregnant.
The Topamax verdicts were a positive sign for plaintiffs because large verdicts for victims can sometimes make drug companies more eager to offer fair settlements to individuals whose defective drug cases are still pending. However, in this case, Janssen Pharmaceuticals does not appear to have given in yet to accepting that it is likely to be found liable for injuries in courts. Instead, Janssen Pharmaceuticals has announced the company’s intent to appeal the verdicts against it. Our Boston defective drug lawyers know that the outcome of the appeals could shape how future Topamax claims are resolved since a loss in appellate court could make Janssen much more likely to move forward with settlement talks.
Janssen To Appeal Topamax Claims
The plaintiffs in the recent cases were awarded Topamax compensation because the juries believed that there was a link between the use of Topamax and the birth defects that the infants were born with. In the case where the plaintiffs were awarded $11 million, the infant will need to have five surgeries prior to turning 21 in order to correct nasal deformities and a cleft palate. The other case also involved an infant born with a cleft lip and a cleft palate believed to have been caused by Topamax.
The drug company does not indicate that its appeal will involve disputing the fact that Topamax caused the birth defects in the infants. The link between Topamax and cleft palates has become very clear and in 2011 the Food and Drug Administration mandated that the Topamax label be changed to note the high risk of a cleft palate and cleft lip in infants who are exposed to the medication while in the womb.
However, the company does dispute whether the plaintiffs were aware of the side effects at the time when they took the medication. The company made a statement to Bloomberg after one of the cases, stating that: “While we empathize with the plaintiff, the evidence demonstrated that Ms. Powell, and her healthcare provider, were aware of the side effects profile before beginning treatment.”
If the plaintiffs were aware of the risks associated with the drug and chose to take the medication anyway, this could absolve the drug company of liability for failure to warn the patients of the dangers of the drugs. However, the plaintiff in the $11 million case took Topamax in 2006 and became pregnant in 2007. The label on the drugs did not change until 2011, although evidence indicates Janssen knew as far back as 1997 that there was a potential for an increased risk of oral clefts when taking the medication.
If Janssen is successful in appeal, the verdict for the plaintiff could be overturned and the company could become less likely to settle future cases in upcoming months. However, if Janssen is defeated and the verdict stands, then the drug manufacturer may become much more eager to settle in order to avoid the risk of more potentially large jury verdicts.
If you are dealing with a Topamax birth defect, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.
More Blog Entries:
Topamax Lawsuit Ends in $11 Million Verdict for the Plaintiff, Boston Product Liability Lawyer Blog, December 13, 2013.