(July 26, 2011)
An Illinois appeals court affirmed a $16.56 million judgment against two manufacturers of a pain patch in a wrongful death case. The family of deceased Janice DiCosolo can momentarily rest after hearing the November 2008 judgment was affirmed on June 30th, 2011. That is, until the manufacturers attempt to appeal this case to the Illinois Supreme Court.
Janssen Pharmaceutical Inc. and ALZA Corporation – both Johnson & Johnson subsidiaries – caused Janice DiCosolo’s February 15, 2004 death from a defective Duragesic pain patch. These pain patches contain a gel form of the powerful narcotic fentanyl in a reservoir, which is slowly released to reduce patient discomfort.
DiCosolo was on these Duragesic pain patches with a prescription from her doctor to mitigate pain from reflex sympathetic dystrophy, which is a neurological disorder. Toxicological results by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed that DiCosolo had 15 times the level of fentanyl deemed safe.
The appeals court rejected drug makers’ arguments that the trial court had made numerous errors and that the verdict was excessive. The Court of Appeals concluded that “we cannot say the verdict in this case falls outside the range of fair and reasonable compensation or is so large it shocks the judicial conscience.”
Unfortunately, Janice DiCosolo is just one of many, as both Janssen Pharmaceutical and ALZA Corp. have recalled millions of Duragesic fentanyl patches. DiCosolo’s family was initially awarded $16.56 million in damages, but post-judgment interest bring that total to roughly $20 million. Yet that is not justice, is it? Would you want to take a patch thought to alleviate pain, knowing it might be the last thing you ever feel?