Family Receives $3 Million in Damages in Topomax Birth Defect Case

A Philadelphia jury has awarded $3 million in damages to the family of a toddler who was born with cleft lip and cleft palate after her mother took the drug, Topomax, during her pregnancy.

The damage award against the makers of Topomax, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, was announced March 13 in a story in The Legal Intelligencer. The failure-to-warn lawsuit was filed in December 2011 in Philadelphia on behalf of the plaintiffs, Kelly and Bradley Anderson of East Troy, Wis., and their daughter, Payton, according to court records. The couple’s daughter is now five years old.

“Plaintiffs Kelly Anderson and her husband argued in their pretrial memorandum that Anderson’s ingestion of Topamax during the first trimester of her pregnancy caused their baby’s birth defects,” The Legal Intelligencer story reported. “Anderson, who took Topamax to treat her migraine headaches, learned she was pregnant Dec. 26, 2007. Court papers said that Anderson called her neurologist, Dr. Veronica Sosa, to discuss tapering off, but not eliminating, her Topamax use with the belief that her migraines would improve during pregnancy.”

Ultimately, “court papers said that Anderson’s obstetrician told her that Topamax was safe to take during pregnancy,” the story reported. “The plaintiffs argued Janssen did not adequately warn about the potential risks associated with Topamax until the label was changed in March 2011.”

The Andersons also alleged in their lawsuit “that Janssen knew about the risk of birth defects associated with Topamax as early as a decade before the label change, as evidenced by internal Janssen documents.”

During the trial, “Janssen employees also acknowledged Topamax’s potential to cause birth defects, court papers said, pointing to the testimony of Cathy Ellis, who served as Janssen’s associate director of regulatory affairs,” the story reported. “She testified that based on preclinical information at the time, Topamax ‘was known to cause some birth defects’ in humans as early as 1996,” according to court papers cited in the story.

The 12-person jury in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas rendered its verdict on behalf of the family with $1.5 million in damages for non-economic losses and $1.5 million for future health care expenses, according to the story. “The jury’s award March 7 in Anderson v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals marks the third Topamax-related verdict issued against Janssen Pharmaceuticals, the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary that manufactures the drug.”

During the trial, Janssen’s experts testified that certainty had not been established about a connection between Topomax and birth defects, court papers said. The company even tried to blame Mrs. Anderson for the birth defects by alleging that one of her doctors “informed her of the potential risks associated with taking Topamax during pregnancy and that Anderson ‘repeatedly refused’ to go off the drug, despite her doctor’s warnings,” the story reported.

“Mrs. Anderson’s conduct, such as her failure to heed the warnings Janssen provided with Topamax and/or heed the warnings concerning the drug’s side effects provided by her prescribing physicians, not only prevents [the] plaintiffs from meeting their burden of proof, but also demonstrates Mrs. Anderson herself was negligent,” defense papers said, according to the story.

One of the family’s attorneys said that “Janssen and Johnson & Johnson’s defensive strategy of placing the blame on the mothers and the doctors is not going to work,” The Legal Intelligencer reported.

These kinds of cases are a somber reminder that patients and their families must be vigilant about the medical care they receive so they know what is being done for a patient’s care every step of the way. But at the same time, patients and families aren’t doctors and they can’t know every question to ask.

That’s where skilled, expert, compassionate and thorough legal representation is needed by patients and their families who have been harmed by medical errors or omissions during their treatment. These kinds of cases happen on a regular basis, but they can be fought by legal teams that are prepared to battle for their clients’ rights all along the way to a fair settlement or to a just verdict.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a medical malpractice, birth injury or related case anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-(866) 352-4572 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

When Winning Matters Most, Call MyPhillyLawyer.