Articles Posted in Jury Awards

Confusion between two similarly-named drugs can be harmful or even fatal if the error is not detected quickly. An error could result from any number of circumstances, such as a pharmacist who misreads a doctor’s handwriting or a nurse who accidentally administers the wrong drug. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has procedures for comparing new drug applications to existing drugs, but this does not guard against confusion regarding drugs that are already on the market. A pharmacy journal published an account last year of one such medication error at an oncology clinic, which fortunately did not result in any complications for the patient who received the wrong medication. A version of the drug she received, however, has been implicated in numerous injuries and lawsuits.

The journal Hospital Pharmacy included an account in its June 2013 issue of a fourteen year-old girl diagnosed with acute promyelotic leukemia (APL) who received the wrong medication for about four months. APL, according to the authors, can quickly turn fatal and requires immediate treatment. Her doctors prescribed an oral dose of trentinoin, a vitamin A derivative commonly prescribed in a topical form under the name Retin-A to treat and prevent acne. It is administered orally in 10-miligram capsules to treat APL. The same basic effect that treats acne can also fight cancer cells.

After completing a course of treatment, the patient returned to the hospital about a month later. Her doctors decided to do several rounds of outpatient intravenous chemotherapy and continue the oral trentinoin. A nurse in the oncology clinic, possibly unfamiliar with the drug, instead called in a prescription for isotrentinoin under the brand name Claravis. While similar to trentinoin, isotrentinoin is primarily used to treat severe acne. It was formerly marketed as Accutane, but the manufacturer discontinued the brand in 2009, allegedly in part because of lawsuits claiming harmful side effects.

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An Alabama jury recently awarded a widow $850,000 after her husband was allegedly administered triple the normal dosage of medication for a pre-existing condition, and died as a result on Christmas Day.

The jury reportedly spent hours deliberating before delivering the verdict against the man’s doctor, for having purportedly caused the 62 year old’s death. The man was initially hospitalized for pneumonia, and had spent 11 days there for treatment. According to reports, he was given three times the amount of lithium that he actually needed in order to treat his bipolar disorder.

The man’s wife has already made a $1 million settlement with the hospital where the man was undergoing treatment at the time of the accidental overdose. The man had apparently been transferred to a different hospital for treatment, where blood tests showed elevated lithium levels, and he was then moved to another location for dialysis where he died.

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A plaintiff claiming that the drug Fosamax caused a painful jaw condition has won a $285,000 verdict against the drug’s manufacturer, Merck. Scheinberg v. Merck & Co., Inc., No. 1:2008-cv-04119 (S.D.N.Y., Feb. 5, 2013). While thousands of lawsuits related to Fosamax are currently pending, this is only the second case that a plaintiff was won at trial. Many cases have been consolidated into two federal district courts, one to hear cases alleging jaw injuries, and another to hear cases alleging femur injuries. Several days before the jury verdict in the Scheinberg case, an appellate court affirmed a verdict and a summary judgment order against a different Fosamax plaintiff in Secrest v. Merck, Sharp & Dohme Corp., No. 11-4358-cv (2nd Cir., Jan. 30, 2013).

Scheinberg filed suit against Merck in 2008, alleging that the drug Fosamax caused her to sustain jaw injuries. The drug was approved to treat osteoporosis in menopausal women. It has been linked to a heightened incidence of femur fractures and osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ), a painful condition affecting the jawbone and surrounding tissues. The sixty-nine year-old plaintiff alleges that she developed ONJ as a result of taking Fosamax, and that this caused complications after she had a tooth extracted.

The Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation began consolidating Fosamax lawsuits, transferring cases alleging ONJ to the Southern District of New York, and cases alleging femur injuries to the District of New Jersey. About 975 ONJ claims are pending in New York, along with 842 femur claims in New Jersey, and various claims in state courts. Scheinberg’s lawsuit asserted causes of action for the products liability theories of design defect and failure to warn of the risks of a dangerous product. Her suit is one of several “bellwether” cases that the judge has allowed to go to trial, to see how similar cases may turn out. Out of seven bellwethers that have gone to trial so far, Merck has won all but two.

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In a prior post, the attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have discussed Maryland’s statutory cap on non-economic damages and how this limitation impacts Maryland injury victims. A recent court decision, however, has drawn attention to Maryland’s limit on non-economic damages in certain medical malpractice cases.

In Semsker v. Lockshin, a jury found a Silver Spring dermatologist and his practice group liable for the death of Richard Semsker. In 2004, Dr. Lockshin’s office treated Semsker for boils on his back and conducted a full body examination for other possible skin issues. During the examination, Lockshin’s associate, Michael Albert, M.D., noted two cysts and an abnormal mole on Semsker’s lower back. Dr. Albert removed the boil and two cysts. However, the dermatologist did not excise the abnormal mole and recommended monitoring only. Over the next two years, the abnormal mole became cancerous and the cancer spread throughout Semsker’s body, and he died at the age of 47, in October 2007. The family later sued the Dr. Albert, and his practice group.

The jury awarded Semsker’s wife and children over $5.8 million in damages, including $3 million in compensation for the family’s mental anguish. Under the state’s limitation on non-economic damages, the $3 million award for pain and suffering would have been reduced to $812,500. However, Judge John W. Deblius III of Montgomery County refused to apply the cap to the Semskers’ damages award. Judge Deblius ruled that the cap did not apply to medical malpractice cases in which the parties did not first attempt arbitration.

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