Plaintiff Wins Again in Topamax Appeal

Defective Drugs
Topamax Birth Defects

In 2013, Haley Powel, her husband Michael Gurley and their son Brayden won a $10.9 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals for birth defects Brayden suffered as a result of his mother’s Topamax use during pregnancy. Janssen appealed, but a Pennsylvania appeals court upheld the lower court’s decision in favor of Powel and her family. If your child suffered birth defects as a result of Topamax use during pregnancy, you may be able to recover compensation for his or her medical expenses and other needs.

Topamax Oral Clefts

Topamax use in pregnancy has been linked to oral cleft in babies. According to court documents, Brayden Gurley was born with a cleft lip and gum defects in July, 2008, and had corrective surgery about three months later. His tooth did not grow in correctly. He sees a speech therapist twice a week because he has speech difficulties. He sees a plastic surgeon regularly. In the future, he may require a graft to repair his gums, dental care due to dental abnormalities, rhinoplasty to correct nasal deformity, as well as ongoing hearing and psychological evaluations.

The Appeal

In its appeal, Janssen claimed that it could not held be responsible for failure to warn because it was required by federal law to get approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for any label changes, and that it would not have received approval because it was unsuccessful in gaining approval for another insert change for Topamax. But the FDA has a regulation that allows drug makers to strengthen warnings without prior approval. Both arguments were rejected.

Janssen also argued that there was not enough evidence to prove that Ms. Powel’s doctor would not have prescribed Topamax if there had been a stronger warning. This argument failed as well because testimony from both Ms. Powel and her doctor showed that they were not aware of the risk of birth defects from taking Topamax.

Ultimately, Janssen’s appeal failed and the jury award of $10.9 million dollars for Brayden Gurley and his family still stands.

Children born with oral clefts require special medical care which is often on-going with a team of oral cleft experts. Parents must learn special feeding techniques. Children can face permanent disfigurement and long-term psychological injury. If your child was born with birth defects after you or your child’s mother took Topamax during pregnancy, you can learn more about your rights and how you can recover damages for your losses by searching our directory to find a defective drug lawyer near you.

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