Heygood, Orr & Pearson: Court of Appeals Affirms $16.56 Million Judgment in Defective Fentanyl Patch Case

CHICAGO, July 6, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- On June 30, 2011, just three weeks after hearing oral argument, the First District of the Illinois Court of Appeals affirmed a $16.56 million judgment against Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) subsidiaries Janssen Pharmaceutica Inc. and ALZA Corporation in a wrongful death case involving their Duragesic® fentanyl pain patch.

The court's opinion completely affirmed the November 2008 judgment in DiCosolo v. ALZA Corp, et al., obtained for the family of Janice DiCosolo by attorneys James Orr, Michael Heygood and Charles Miller of the Dallas-based law firm Heygood, Orr & Pearson, and Chicago attorney John Cushing.

Mrs. DiCosolo's death on February 15, 2004, occurred while she was using a Duragesic® fentanyl patch that her doctor prescribed to reduce the pain she experienced as a result of a neurological condition called reflex sympathetic dystrophy. Duragesic® is a patch containing a gel form of the powerful pain medication fentanyl.

During the course of the trial, Mrs. DiCosolo's family argued that the defendants were aware of a long history of manufacturing defects related to the Duragesic® fentanyl patch that allowed the patch to leak fentanyl onto a patient's skin, potentially leading to extreme hypoventilation and death. As attorney James Orr explained, "The Defendants knew their fentanyl patch was unreasonably dangerous and defective because it could leak fentanyl gel but continued to sell the product rather than change its design or their manufacturing processes."

Janssen and ALZA ultimately recalled millions of Duragesic® fentanyl patches, including the very patch Mrs. DiCosolo was wearing at the time she died. As introduced into evidence during the trial, a subsequent FDA investigation found numerous deficiencies in ALZA's manufacturing practices and quality control policies and procedures. These problems led to the manufacture and sale of thousands of defective, leaking patches, including the patch that caused the death of Mrs. DiCosolo. In fact, toxicological testing conducted by the Cook County Medical Examiner's office revealed that Mrs. DiCosolo had more than 15 times the amount of fentanyl in her bloodstream than a properly functioning Duragesic® fentanyl patch was designed to provide.

Following a three-week trial, a Cook County Circuit Court jury found Janssen and ALZA liable and awarded the DiCosolo family $16.56 million in damages. With post-judgment interest, the judgment is now approximately $20 million.

"The Court of Appeals' opinion is a total vindication of the jury's verdict and a testament to the years of hard work that went into preparing, trying and defending on appeal this important case," said lead appellate attorney Eric D. Pearson. "While the Defendants suggested on appeal that the verdict was the product of improper rulings by the trial court, misapplication of Illinois product liability law and overzealous advocacy by the lawyers, the Court of Appeals soundly rejected this argument, finding instead that 'there was overwhelming evidence regarding the defective Duragesic® patch causing Mrs. DiCosolo's death.' The court also rejected the Defendants' argument that the jury's verdict was excessive and the product of passion or prejudice, concluding that 'We cannot say that the verdict in this case falls outside the range of fair and reasonable compensation or is so large it shocks the judicial conscience.' We are very pleased with this result."

It is expected that Defendants will attempt to appeal the case to the Illinois Supreme Court. "We are confident that the Illinois Supreme Court will reject the Defendants' appeal and that our clients will finally obtain the compensation they deserve for the needless loss of their wife and mother," added attorney Michael Heygood.

The DiCosolo verdict is the second multi-million dollar fentanyl pain patch verdict obtained by Heygood, Orr & Pearson. Attorney James Orr previously obtained a $5.5M verdict for the family of Adam Hendelson, a 28-year-old Florida man who died while using a Duragesic® pain patch. To date, Heygood, Orr & Pearson has tried more fentanyl cases to verdict than all other law firms in the U.S. combined. The firm continues to represent victims of defective fentanyl pain patches and is actively pursuing cases against Janssen Pharmaceutica, ALZA Corporation, Sandoz Inc., Mylan Inc., Watson Pharmaceuticals and other patch manufacturers.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson is a business litigation and personal injury law firm based in Dallas. The firm prides itself on having the highest of credentials, experience and ability, and has tried more than 200 cases to jury verdicts on behalf of both corporations and individuals. These cases include lawsuits involving business disputes, life-altering personal injuries, defective products, dangerous prescription drugs and more. More information is available at http://www.hop-law.com.

For information, please contact Eric D. Pearson, Heygood Orr & Pearson, at 877-446-9001.

SOURCE Heygood, Orr & Pearson

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