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$18 Million Verdict for Wrongful Death Caused by Fentanyl Transdermal Patch

October 07, 2011

An Illinois Appellate Court has upheld an $18 million verdict against Janssen Pharmaceuticals for the wrongful death of a woman, Janice DiCosolo who died after using the company’s Duragesic prescription transdermal patch.

The defective pain patch was designed to release 1.7 ng/mL of the powerful narcotic painkiller fentanyl, which is a powerful opiate-based analgesic 60 to 80 times stronger than morphine. DiCosolo, who died of cardiac arrest, was found to have 28.2 ng/mL of fentanyl in her system at the time of her death.

The level of fentanyl was so high that the coroner at first concluded that the woman had committed suicide, but the day after the DiCosolo’s death, Janssen Pharmaceuticals announced an “Urgent Class I Drug Recall” of the same lot of the drug that included DiCosolo’s patch. The recall notice indicated that a small number of the patches might leak medication along one side of the patch causing increased exposure to fentanyl.

The drug company appealed the $18 million jury verdict claiming insufficient evidence had been presented to conclude that the defective pain patch malfunctioned to permit the jury to infer a “non-specific defect” caused her death. The pharmaceutical company argued that DiCosolo’s family had to explain the exact mechanics of the failure of the defective pain patch. The drug company’s position was that failing to require such a showing was akin to allowing the defect in a product liability case be proven simply by the fact that a person was injured.

The court rejected this position and found that sufficient circumstantial evidence was presented to support a finding that the transdermal pain patch was defective. The court specifically relied on evidence that the fentanyl transdermal pain patch was the only source of the fentanyl that was being used by DiCosolo and that the coroner had ruled that she died from an overdose of fentanyl. Other evidence that the patch was defective included the fact that the patch was part of a lot that was recalled for exactly the risk that killed DiCosolo – the delivery of an unsafe dose of fentanyl. The court pointed out that while the mere fact that DiCosolo died did not prove a defect, that is not the same thing as saying the patch delivered an excessive amount of fentanyl, which caused her death.

While pain patches can provide relief to those with severe pain, there is a serious risk of overdose from the drug being released into the body at too rapid a rate. The FDA has been aware of the potential problems associated with defective transdermal pain patches dating back to 1995 when it began issuing recalls of transdermal patches and new product labeling requirements. Potentially fatal overdoses can occur when a transdermal patch administers fentanyl too rapidly because the patch is defective, which may include being cut or otherwise defective so that the powerful narcotic painkiller leaks causing the drug to be absorbed into the bloodstream at an unsafe rate. Fentanyl transdermal patches may cause respiratory depression, respiratory arrest and even death.

Montlick and Associates represents those throughout Georgia who suffer injury or wrongful death caused by defective products, and we will review potential claims involving defective transdermal pain patches. Our Georgia Fentanyl transdermal patch lawyers are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Personal Injury

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