The largest jury award ever given to the victim of a defective prescription drug has been upheld by a federal appeals court.
According to a BusinessWeek.com report, the First Court of Appeals has determined the $21.6 million awarded to New Hampshire resident Karen
Bartlett is appropriate for the “truly horrific” injuries she’s suffered as a result of taking the generic non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), sulindac, as a treatment for her shoulder pain. A jury awarded her that sum in 2010 and the makers of sulindac, Mutual Pharmaceuticals, have objected to the award since. The company is most at odds with the $16.5 million awarded to Bartlett for pain, suffering, and the loss of enjoyment of life.
Bartlett suffered blindness and severe burns to her skin and mucous membranes after using sulindac. Burns covered nearly 65 percent of her body and, according to the report detailing testimony from her trial, her burn surgeon described the condition as “hell on earth.” Judge Michael Boudin, from the First Circuit Court of Appeals, handed down the unanimous decision in upholding the original verdict and jury award, calling Bartlett’s injuries “disastrous.”
In making the decision to uphold the record-breaking verdict, the panel of appeals judges determined that Bartlett’s injuries were unique and truly deserved the sum awarded to her two years ago. Bartlett is prevented from or severely limited in her abilities to do common functions. She can not eat normally due to burns along her esophagus. She is permanently disfigured in her eyes. She can not have sexual relations due to injuries suffered to her vagina and can not exercise in any sort of aerobic activity due to lung damage caused by her taking sulindac.
Bartlett was prescribed the NSAID sulindac in 2004 to treat swelling and inflammation in her shoulder, completely unaware that taking the medication could result in the serious injuries she’s suffered. Initial side effects symptoms began presenting themselves within weeks of starting sulindac.
In awarding her this record amount for a drug liability claim, it was determined that Bartlett’s injuries were extraordinary. Prior to making its ruling, according to the report, federal District Court Judge Joseph Laplante told jurors that to hold Mutual Pharmaceuticals liable for the Plaintiff’s injuries, they had to determine that sulindac presented “unreasonably dangerous” consequences.
Mutual disputed the credibility of Bartlett’s witnesses that testified during a two-week trial but did not call any of its own during the company’s portion of the trial. It only chose to cross-examine the Plaintiff’s witnesses. The company did not respond to the source’s request for comments on whether it will file future appeals to the ruling.