In July, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division overturned an $18M jury verdict against Defendant Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., the manufacturer of Accutane, a popular drug for severe cystic acne. Rossitto v. Hoffman-LaRoche Inc., 2016 N.J. Super. Unpub. 2016 WL 3943335 (N.J. App. Div. Jul. 22, 2016). Plaintiffs were Accutane users who claimed that they developed ulcerative colitis, a chronic disease of the large intestine after using the product for years and that the manufacturer failed to adequately warn about the risk of developing this condition.
The Appellate Court overturned the verdict and ordered a new trial after the trial court allowed Plaintiffs’ counsel to admit into evidence a change to the drug’s warning label in 2000, after Plaintiffs had stopped taking the drug, even after that evidence was initially barred earlier in the trial. The court found this mistake to be prejudicial to Defendant, because it fostered the belief that the labels previous to the 2000 label did not meet the proper standards. Furthermore, the trial court erred in restricting the number of defense expert witnesses to testify on general causation.
Roche has continued to win on appeal in Accutane cases. In 2014 and 2015, the Superior Court reversed a $25 million verdict and a $2.1 million verdict against the company, respectively, in similar cases. In 2010, the same court overturned a $10.5 million verdict against the company, sending the case back for retrial based on a separate evidentiary issue. Roche discontinued the sale of Accutane in 2009.