In two separate cases, McCarrell v. Hoffman-La Roche and Kendall v. Hoffman-La Roche, the New Jersey Appellate Division has reversed large damages decisions for plaintiffs suing over injuries sustained after taking Accutane, La Rocheâ€™s popular acne drug.
In both cases, the Appellate Division found that the respective trial courts erred by allowing plaintiffs to introduce evidence on the numerous incidents of Accutane complications while not allowing La Roche to introduce evidence about the large number of Accutane consumers nationally.
Also affected by the rulings is an important statute of limitations issue, specifically that the discovery rule can be properly invoked in Accutane cases. The discovery rule, when applied, means that the statute of limitations for a claim does not start to run until a plaintiff knew or should have known about the injury claimed to be suffered from. In Kendall, the court held that because the Accutane warning label drew much more attention to other types of side effects aside from the risks of colon injury, plaintiffs who had suffered colon injuries could properly claim that they were not on notice of the colon risks at the time they purchased Accutane.
This ruling may be in line for revision by the New Jersey Supreme Court in the future, however, as some have agued that it penalizes pharmaceutical companies for properly drawing attention to more probable or dangerous side effects that a drug may have.