Retrial beneficial for plaintiff in 'Judicial Hellhole'

John O'Brien Feb. 19, 2010, 4:07pm

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - A New Jersey jury has awarded a man who claims to have lost his large colon because of an acne medication $25 million, 11 months after an appellate court struck down a $2.6 million award in his favor.

Andrew McCarrell received the news Wednesday after the Atlantic County Superior Court trial of his lawsuit against Hoffman-LaRoche, maker of Accutane. The New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance, meanwhile, was not excited about the verdict.

Atlantic County has been deemed a "Judicial Hellhole" by the American Tort Reform Association in its annual report.

"Accutane was introduced in 1982 and is credited with helping millions of people who suffer from severe acne," AnnMarie McDonald wrote on the NJLRA's blog.

"A $25 million warning label is a hefty pricetag for Accutane's consumers to bear. Unfortunately for consumers, though, the trial bar was able to claim an additional victory; faced with the threat of an additional 1,000 lawsuits with similar claims and the high cost of defending personal injury lawsuits, Roche discontinued Accutane in June 2009."

Seven out of nine jurors decided Roche did not adequately disclose the potential for side effects like inflammatory bowel disease, and seven out of nine voted that Accutane was the cause of McCarrell's IBD.

All nine voted for the $25 million award.

The New Jersey Appellate Division said nearly a year ago that Atlantic County Judge Carol Higbee should have allowed the company to present usage data and related evidence during the first trial.

"The consequence of that restriction was, unfortunately, an imbalanced presentation that had the capacity to produce an unjust outcome," the Appellate Division decision says.

"This error is of such a pivotal nature that the judgment in favor of plaintiff must be vacated, and a new trial conducted."

The trial is available online at Courtroom View Network.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at

More News