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Firm Announcements and Law Updates


A state appeals court has revived more than 500 suits filed against Hoffmann-La Roche by users of the acne drug Accutane who claim the drug caused them to develop inflammatory bowel disease.

The panel overturned grants of summary judgment to Hoffmann-La Roche in 18 cases where plaintiffs began taking the drug after April 2002, when the package insert was amended to say the drug was "associated with inflammatory bowel disease." The court said plaintiffs presented evidence that Hoffmann-La Roche's knowledge of the drug's harmful effects was sufficient to present a jury question as to the adequacy of the warning. A finder of fact could conclude that the company concluded internally that there was a causal effect between Accutane and bowel disease, but did not disclose that in its warning.

Tuesday's Appellate Division ruling brings the Accutane docket in state court to more than 700 cases, up from 209 cases as of July 17. The ruling comes shortly after Hoffmann-La Roche won reversal of a $25 million verdict at the Appellate Division in May in McCarrell v. Hoffmann-La Roche. That came after the state Supreme Court reinstated that verdict in January.

The panel, consisting of Judges Clarkson Fisher Jr., Mitchel Ostrer and Scott Moynihan, also reversed the dismissal of 514 cases brought by plaintiffs who were prescribed Accutane, ingested the drug and developed bowel disease in places other than New Jersey. The judge below applied New Jersey law to those cases, citing a letter by plaintiffs counsel in January 2005 that sought classification of the cases as a mass tort with centralized case management.

Greg Palumbo