Pennsylvania Court sides with Plaintiff in $11M Topamax Birth Defect Lawsuit Appeal

When Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals appealed a recent Topamax birth defect lawsuit verdict which required them to pay nearly $11 million to a family, the Philadelphia Superior Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff.

According to an article in Reuters, the original ruling was reached in November 2013, when a jury found that Janssen failed to warn of Topamax birth defect risks in the lawsuit brought by Haley Powell and Michael Gurley. The plaintiffs’ son, Brayden Gurley, was born with severe gum defects and a cleft lip in 2008 after Ms. Powell used Topamax during pregnancy. The child will require at least five surgical procedures to correct these defects before he reaches adulthood.

In this case, the jury agreed with Powel and Gurley that Janssen did not provide adequate warnings of the risk of an oral cleft defect on Topamax. It was also determined that if Ms. Powell and her doctor had been fully aware of this risk they would have made different treatment decisions and Brayden would not have been exposed to Topamax in the womb.

J&J appealed this verdict, claiming that the $10.9 million award was excessive. The pharmaceutical giant also claimed that federal laws pre-empted this lawsuit and that lawyers representing Brayden’s family did not successfully link Topamax to his birth defects.

Topamax oral cleft birth defect warnings were not added to labels until required by the FDA in 2011, but studies pointed to this risk much earlier than that. In 2008, the journal Neurology published research where a team of doctors found that women who use Topamax during pregnancy are up to 11 times more likely to give birth to a child with cleft lip or cleft palate birth defects.

In 2014, Johnson & Johnson settled at least 76 Topamax birth defect lawsuits for an undisclosed amount, and families have continued to file personal injury lawsuits based on claims that this company hid the risk of Topamax oral clefts from consumers. If you believe your child’s cleft lip, cleft palate, or birth defect may have been formed when his or her mother used Topamax during pregnancy, please contact a personal injury lawyer for a free legal consultation.