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Big Verdict Upheld for Girl Sickened by Motrin

(CN) - Johnson & Johnson was rightfully socked with a $50 million judgment in favor of a Massachusetts girl who contracted a life-threatening disease after taking Children's Motrin, the state's highest court ruled.

Samantha Reckis was 7 years old in 2003 her father, Richard, gave her doses of Children's Motrin for her fever and sinus congestion at 2 p.m. and 10 p.m.

The next morning, Samantha had a rash and sore throat, and her fever and sinus problems had not improved. Richard gave her a third dose of Motrin.

When Samantha visited her pediatrician, she also had crusty eyes and cracked lips. The doctor diagnosed her with measles and told her parents to give her Motrin three times per day.

One day later, Samantha was covered in blisters, and her lips were bleeding. Richard and his wife Lisa, who were separated and have since divorced, took Samantha to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN).

Samantha was placed into a medically induced coma for a month to ease her pain.

In the next six months, Samantha's top layer of skin died and sloughed off. She suffered heart failure, liver failure, a stroke and an aneurysm. She became addicted to painkillers and went through withdrawal when she was weaned off of them.

Though the child survived, she needed a feeding tube to eat. After undergoing more than 12 eye surgeries, Samantha is legally blind and weighed 82 pounds at the age of 16. She cannot play sports, and her doctor said she will never be able to give birth to a child.

Samantha and her parents sued McNeil-PPC, the manufacturer of Children's' Motrin, as well as its parent company, Johnson & Johnson. They claimed breach of warranty, negligence, loss of consortium and infliction of emotional distress.

A jury ruled in the Reckis family's favor, awarding Samantha $50 million, and each of her parents $6.5 million for loss of consortium.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld the verdict and damage awards last month.

"This is not a case in which there is 'no way of knowing' the basis for the jury's verdict; we are reasonably confident that the jury did not base liability on the defendant's failure to warn of SJS (Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a similar condition) or TEN by name," Justice Margot Botsford wrote for the court.

The defendants were also unsuccessful in their challenge to the testimony of pharmacologist Dr. Randall Tackett, challenging its foundation and Tackett's qualifications.

"We find no error in the judge's ruling that Tackett was qualified to render an opinion on whether ibuprofen specifically caused Samantha's TEN despite the fact that he was not a physician treating TEN patients," Botsford wrote.

Despite Samantha's positive outlook and determination to lead a "great life," she is entitled to the full $50 million damage award, the court found.

"The jury could applaud this optimism but nevertheless reasonably infer from the significant extent of Samantha's past pain and suffering, and the state of her health, that she will likely experience pain and suffering throughout her life," Botsford wrote.

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