SOURCE: Heygood, Orr, Reyes, Pearson & Bartolomei

November 17, 2008 18:05 ET

Jury Awards $16.5 Million in Fentanyl Death Case

DiCosolo Family Lawyer Jim Orr Says Duragesic Patch Was Known to Have Problems

CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwire - November 17, 2008) - A jury in Chicago has found two Johnson & Johnson subsidiaries liable in the death of a Cicero, Ill., woman who died while using a Duragesic® patch, and ordered the companies to pay her family $16,560,000.

The verdict in the case involving 38-year-old Janice DiCosolo, a mother of three, was delivered in Judge Thomas Flanagan's courtroom in the Cook County Circuit Court, after a three-week trial.

When Mrs. DiCosolo died on February 15, 2004, she was using a Duragesic patch that her doctor prescribed to reduce the almost constant pain she experienced as a result of a neurological condition called reflex sympathetic dystrophy. Duragesic is a patch containing a gel form of the drug fentanyl, which is 100-times stronger than morphine.

In the lawsuit, Mrs. DiCosolo's family argued that the defendants, Titusville, N.J.-based Janssen Pharmaceutica Inc. and Mountain View, Calif.-based ALZA Corporation, knew about the Duragesic patch's problems, which allowed the patches to leak fentanyl in amounts large enough to kill the patients using it. Both Janssen and ALZA are subsidiaries of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ).

"They knew this patch was dangerous and defective but they continued to sell it and make money, and that's the only reason Janice DiCosolo is dead," says attorney Jim Orr of Heygood, Orr, Reyes, Pearson & Bartolomei (HORP&B) in Dallas, counsel for the DiCosolo family. "They even knew there was a safer design, one that would prevent the fentanyl from leaking, but they chose not to use it," added Orr's partner Michael Heygood, who also represented the DiCosolo family at trial.

The patch that Mrs. DiCosolo was using at the time of her death was part of a larger group of patches that ALZA recalled in 2004. That same year, an FDA investigator found deficiencies in ALZA's manufacturing practices and quality control assurance policies and procedures.

"The drugstore that sold this patch sent Mr. DiCosolo a letter days after his wife's death to tell him about the recall," says attorney John Cushing of The Law Offices of John Cushing in Chicago, who also represented the DiCosolo family. "This was a tragic death that didn't have to happen."

Also representing the DiCosolo family at trial was Charles Miller, also of HORP&B.

This is the second Duragesic case where HORP&B has prevailed on behalf of a client who lost a loved one due to a defective fentanyl patch. Last year, a federal court jury in Florida awarded $5.5 million to the family of 28-year-old Adam Hendleson, who died while using a Duragesic patch that was prescribed for hip pain.

The Law Offices of Heygood, Orr, Reyes, Pearson & Bartolomei is a Texas-based civil litigation firm representing businesses and individuals in matters involving personal injury claims, contract disputes, business torts, professional negligence and more.

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