Counsel for Accutane Users Announce $18 Million Verdict Against Roche Over Company's Failure to Properly Warn Patients of Risks of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Jul 01, 2012, 17:13 ET from Seeger Weiss LLP

NUTLEY, N.J., July 1, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- A jury in New Jersey late Friday returned an $18 million verdict to two former Accutane users against Nutley, N.J.-based pharmaceutical companies Hoffmann La-Roche Inc. and Roche Laboratories, subsidiaries of Roche Holding AG (ROG).

The plaintiffs, Katie Rossitto and Riley Wilkinson, took Accutane for treatment of their acne in the 1990s and developed ulcerative colitis—a debilitating, permanent disease—as a result. Each was awarded $9 million in compensatory damages for the injuries caused by their use of Accutane. Lead counsel for plaintiffs in the consolidated trial were David Buchanan of Seeger Weiss LLP (New Jersey/New York) and Troy Rafferty of Levin Papantonio, PA (Pensacola).

In response to the verdict, Mr. Buchanan stated: "We're extremely pleased for Katie and Riley. They've suffered greatly at the hands of Roche's drug, and the jury's verdict provides a measure of justice for each of them." Buchanan added, "The evidence revealed that Roche withheld its knowledge and conclusions about the risk of inflammatory bowel disease from doctors prescribing the drug, and thus patients, like Ms. Rossitto and Mr. Wilkinson, were completely unaware of the risks of this debilitating disease."

Ms. Rossitto and Mr. Wilkinson's cases were tried together with those of Rebecca Reynolds and Jason Young in a four-plaintiff consolidated trial. Though determining that Roche had failed to provide an adequate warning to the doctors for Ms. Reynolds and Mr. Young, the panel found that in the circumstances of those cases, an adequate warning would not have led to a different result. Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Rafferty expressed their disappointment for Ms. Reynolds and Mr. Young, noting that the jury's ultimate finding in those cases is hard to reconcile with its express finding of Roche's misconduct directed toward the medical community and Ms. Reynolds and Mr. Young's doctors.

The trial team was led by David Buchanan of Seeger Weiss LLP and Troy Rafferty of Levin Papantonio PA. Further representing Mr. Wilkinson, Ms. Reynolds, and Mr. Young were Mary Jane Bass, Jack Lurton, and Jack Zoesch of Beggs & Lane LLP; Michael Rosenberg and Joey Tsai of Seeger Weiss; and Bill Cash of Levin Papantonio. Ms. Rossitto was represented by Peter Samberg, David Rosenband, and Kendra Goldhirsch, Weitz & Luxenberg, LLP.

The consolidated trial was the sixth New Jersey trial concerning Accutane to reach a verdict. In the prior five trials on behalf of eight former Accutane users, those juries also found that Roche had failed to provide an adequate warning of the risks of inflammatory bowel disease with Accutane. There are currently more than 7,000 cases pending in New Jersey and elsewhere on behalf of former Accutane users who developed serious gastrointestinal diseases after using the drug.

Mr. Rafferty commented that, "though the awards to Ms. Rossitto and Mr. Wilkinson only formally apply to the two of them, they bode well for plaintiffs in the remaining approximately 7,000 inflammatory bowel disease cases pending in New Jersey and elsewhere." Ms. Reynolds, Ms. Rossitto, Mr. Wilkinson, and Mr. Young were all prescribed Accutane in the 1990s—from 1992 through 1998. Mr. Rafferty noted that, "From 1984 through the time each of these plaintiffs took the drug, Roche failed to strengthen the warning in the Accutane label in the face of mounting internal and external evidence of severe inflammatory bowel disease risk with the drug. The jury's finding that the label was inadequate at each point between 1992 and 1998 will have broader impact in other cases going forward."

Similarly, Mr. Buchanan emphasized the broader significance of the jury's rejection of Roche's defense that Accutane does not cause ulcerative colitis, adding: "Like the juries in each of the prior trials that were asked the question, the jury here concluded that Accutane is a cause of inflammatory bowel disease, in this case, ulcerative colitis." Referred to in legal circles as "general causation," Mr. Buchanan noted that, "At this point, Accutane's role as a cause of ulcerative colitis is a settled issue. Roche's continued denials in the face of six juries in New Jersey, and one in Florida, stating otherwise is a continuing insult to the many who have already suffered so much due to this drug."

Seeger Weiss LLP, with offices in New York, Newark, and Philadelphia serves as Liaison Counsel in the coordinated New Jersey state Accutane litigation. Seeger Weiss represents clients from across the country who suffered life-altering injuries as a result of taking Accutane. For further information, see or call (888) 584-0411.

Contact: Allan Ripp 212-262-7477/646-285-1779

SOURCE Seeger Weiss LLP