J&J persuades court to toss $1.1M in Levaquin damages

Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) has scored a partial court victory in its long-running battle over the antibiotic Levaquin. The drugmaker has faced thousands of lawsuits claiming Levaquin caused tendon injuries--and that J&J didn't do enough to warn patients and doctors of the risk.

Just last month, J&J settled at least 845 of the more than 3,400 Levaquin cases, and at last count it was negotiating to settle 190 more. Four of the Levaquin lawsuits have gone to trial, and J&J won three. In the fourth--in which the plaintiff, John Schedin, claimed Levaquin caused both of his Achilles tendons to rupture--a jury awarded more than $2 million in damages.

Now, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis has tossed out $1.1 million in punitive damages, leaving $630,000 in compensation for Schedin's injuries. The appeals court upheld the jury's determination that J&J didn't properly warn about Levaquin's tendon injury risk.

Schedin's lawyer said the reversal of the punitive damages was disappointing, but that the decision upholding the rest of the verdict would make it easier for consumers to pursue Levaquin claims. J&J, on the other hand, said it was pleased with the ruling.

Levaquin's official label includes a "black box" warning of the risk of tendon ruptures--a warning the FDA added in 2008 on all antibiotics in Levaquin's class. Lawyers have argued that Levaquin was risker than the others in that class, but J&J points out that Levaquin's label covered the potential for tendon-related side effects as far back as 1996.

- read the Bloomberg story

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