A $25.16 million judgment in favor of an Alabama man who claimed he contracted Crohn’s disease after taking the acne drug Accutane was reinstated by the New Jersey Supreme Court, marking the latest action in the state’s decade-old mass tort litigation.
The court ruled that the verdict in favor of Andrew McCarrell should stand despite his lawsuit being filed after the statute of limitations in Alabama. The court said that New Jersey’s more liberal statute of limitations should apply.
“Over the years, our choice-of-law jurisprudence has striven to structure rules that will lead to predictable and uniform results that are fair, just and that will meet the reasonable expectation of the parties,” Justice Barry Albin said. “In this appeal, we attempt to advance that goal.”
When McCarrell filed his lawsuit, the North American headquarters of Accutane manufacturer Hoffman-La Roche was in Nutley, New Jersey. Since then, the pharmaceutical company has moved its North American headquarters to Indianapolis, Indiana.
McCarrell alleged he was first prescribed Accutane in June 1995 at the age of 23. He later testified that his doctor never warned him that use of the drug could cause bowel problems. Four months after starting treatment, McCarrell stopped taking the drug. A year later, he began to experience severe stomach pains and diarrhea. The symptoms cleared up but would return intermittently.
In November 1996, he was diagnosed with colitis. For the next month, his symptoms continued to worsen, causing bloody diarrhea. In December 1996, his entire rectum and colon were surgically removed and replaced with a surgically constructed “J-pouch.” In April 1998, McCarrell’s J-pouch became inflamed and he developed fever, incontinence and musus discharge. He underwent an ileostomy during which his small intestine was brought through a hole in his abdominal wall to drain into an ostomy bag. In 2002, he had surgery to reverse the ileostomy, and in December 2003, a doctor changed his diagnosis from ulcerative colitis to Crohn’s disease.
McCarrell filed his lawsuit against Roche in July 2003, alleging the company’s Accutane caused his injury. In 2005, his case was centralized in Atlantic County Superior Court, where more than 3,600 lawsuits are currently pending. In 2007, McCarrell was awarded $2.7 million but that verdict was overturned on an evidentiary issue. In a 2010 retrial, he was awarded $25 million. In August 2015, an Appellate Division panel overturned the verdict saying McCarrell’s claim was time-barred. In the latest ruling, McCarrell’s $25 million award stands.
Source: NJ Law Journal