Duragesic Pain Patch Lawsuit Brings $16.6 Million Award

Illinois product liability lawyers are encouraged by the verdict returned November 17, 2008, in the Circuit Court of Cook County awarding $16.6 million in damages to the estate of a 38 year old Cicero woman who died of a fatal dose of the powerful narcotic fentanyl. The suit alleged that the defendants, New Jersy based Janssen Pharmaceutica Inc. and California based ALZA Corp. knew about problems with the Duragesic patch that allowed it to leak fentanyl in doses large enough to kill pateints. Both defendants are subsidiaries of Johnson & Johnson.

The defendants maintained that the decendent death was caused by “polypharmacy”- a mix of potentially incompatible medications. The jury disagreed. The verdict is the fourth trial loss since 2006. FDA had issued prior warnings about improper use of fentanyl patrches.

Post trial motions and a possible appeal are down the road, but multiple juries have now concluded that some of these Duragesic (fentanyl) patches are unreasonably dangerous. Unfortunately, federal preemption (see blog of Oct. 31, 08) may yet provide a opportunity for defendants to escape liability. Civil jury verdicts are pointing the way for FDA action.