$550,000 Traumatic Injury


Traumatic Injury After a Reaction to Lamictal

Injuries: Plaintiff suffered a reaction to Lamictal–anti-anxiety medication–resulting in severe Stevens-Johnson Syndrome reaction, mild scarring, and permanent loss of fingernails and toenails.

Amount of Settlement: $550,000.00

Date of Recovery: January 2009

Plaintiff’s Attorney: Marc L. Breakstone Boston, Massachusetts

Details of the Case

Attorney Marc Breakstone obtained a settlement in the amount of $550,000 for a 28-year-old woman who suffered a life-threatening reaction which permanently scarred her for life after receiving a prescription Lamictal for postpartum depression.

The psychiatric nurse who prescribed the medication gave the plaintiff no warnings or instructions about the serious risk of an allergic reaction to the drug that can produce a deadly reaction called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS). This condition, which can cause severe burns to not only the skin but also the internal mucosa of the mouth, rectum and the vagina, is so dangerous that the drug manufacturer puts a black box warning on the package insert to alert prescribing physicians and nurses about this danger. The warning states that as soon as any person taking this drug develops any type of rash, they must stop the drug immediately.

Unfortunately, the psychiatric nurse, who prescribed the medication gave no information to the plaintiff about these risks. A lawsuit was filed. In the lawsuit, the psychiatric nurse claimed that she warned the patient about the risk of Stevens-Johnson syndrome with this medication and also warned her to stop taking it if she developed any reaction such as a rash. Fortunately for the plaintiff, a social worker was present at the meeting when the nurse prescribed the medication. During the litigation, the social worker testified under oath that the psychiatric nurse gave no warnings to the patient about this deadly risk.

Approximately eight days after starting Lamictal, plaintiff developed a rash on her legs. She called defendant psychiatric nurse at the clinic to inquire whether the rash might be related to the Lamictal. The nurse did not return any of the patient’s telephone messages. During the lawsuit, the clinic receptionist who took the three or four phone messages from the patient, testified under oath that she handed the defendant psychiatric nurse  three written phone message slips regarding calls from the plaintiff, and that on at least one occasion, the defendant stated “Oh, her again!” The receptionists further testify that she was disgusted and shocked by the nurse’s disregard for her patient’s well-being.

Out of desperation, Plaintiff went to her local emergency department on two occasions to have someone look at her rash.  A dermatologist, and a gynecologist within the first week after the rash developed examined her but did not associate the rash with the Lamictal.  As a result, plaintiff continued to take the Lamictal even after the rash started and spread across her body. Finally, when plaintiff’s lips and gums began to blister, she stopped taking the Lamictal.

She went back to a local emergency room which had her transported immediately to the Massachusetts General Hospital Burn Intensive Care Unit where she was admitted with severe burns over 60% of her body as a result of the Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. She also had blistering and burns to her oral, vaginal and rectal mucosa. Plaintiff remained an in-patient at the ICU Burn Unit for 21 days.

Plaintiff survived the episode, but was left with mild scarring on her arms, legs, chest and neck. Plaintiff was also left with no fingernails or toenails. During this entire ordeal, plaintiff was unable to care for her newborn child. This emotional injury compounded the severe physical pain and suffering that she endured.

Attorney Marc Breakstone obtained as an expert one of the world’s leading expert psychiatrists who has written extensively on Lamictal and Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. That expert was prepared to testify at trial, if necessary, that the defendant psychiatric nurse deviated from the standard of care by failing to warn plaintiff regarding the risks associated with Lamictal and the necessity to stop Lamictal at the first sign of any rash, as severe rashes leading to Stevens-Johnson Syndrome have been associated with this drug. Plaintiff’s expert was prepared to testify that as a result of taking the drug for four days after the rash developed, plaintiff unwittingly exposed herself to the risk of a far greater reaction. After two years of intensive discovery and multiple depositions, the case was settled on the eve of trial for $550,000.