Accutane Bowel Damages Were Worst Case of Pain and Suffering Ever Heard by Judge

Austin Kirk

By Austin Kirk
Posted September 16, 2011


In an order issued earlier this week by Judge Carol Higbee, who is presiding over all Accutane lawsuits pending in New Jersey state court, the damages suffered by a plaintiff who experienced inflammatory bowel disease from Accutane were described as the “worst case of pain, suffering and loss of quality of life” she had ever heard described in her nearly two decades on the bench.

To provide a bit of background, Judge Higbee made those statements in a order denying Roche’s request for a new trial or, in the alternative, a reduction in the Accutane damages awarded to Andrew McCarrell during a trial last year.

McCarrell was originally one of the first Accutane suits to reach a jury in April 2007, resulting in a verdict of $2,619,000. However, that verdict was overturned on appeal when Roche convinced an appeals court that they should have been permitted to introduce testimony on the total number of Accutane users to put the number of adverse event reports into a larger context.

Following their second bite at the apple, Roche lost again, with the new jury awarding $25,159,530.19 in damages for McCarrell’s bowel problems from Accutane, nearly 10x as much as was awarded during the first trial.

In an order issued by Judge Higbee on September 12, she denied Roche’s request for a new trial and refused to reduce the jury’s award of damages, writing:

The weight of the evidence supports the jury’s verdict. McCarrell was a young, active man when he was diagnosed with IBD. He went through his numerous surgeries and procedures, his constant pain, and the overall effect of IBD on him and his family. The evidence shows he has a permanent condition that is not likely to improve. The court does not find a sense of “wrongness” in the jury award.

After using Accutane for about four months in 1995 for treatment of Acne, McCarrell began experiencing stomach pain and diarrhea, which ultimately led to a diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease like hundreds of other Accutane users who were not adequately warned about the potential side effects. McCarrell went on to have four surgeries over the next six years, including a total colectomy, which removed his colon and rectum, and an ileostomy that resulted in his need to live with a colostomy bag for at least 4 1/2 years.

As a result of the Accutane bowel damages, McCarrell presented testimony at two trials before Judge Higbee regarding the continuing severe problems he experiences every day. The second jury’s award included $159,540.19 in compensatory damages and an astonishing $25 million for disability, impairment, loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering.

In upholding the full amount of the damages award, Judge Higbee went on to write:

His testimony and that of his wife and doctors presented a picture of probably the worst case of pain, suffering and loss of quality of life I ever heard described on my eighteen years on the bench. The second was another Accutane case where the jury found no proximate cause so there was no award.

While it will probably still be some time before McCarrell receives his Accutane payment, as Roche is bound to appeal this latest ruling, this order and Judge Higbee’s comments regarding the severity of the pain and suffering caused by Accutane and her decision to let the jury’s verdict stand may put additional pressure on Roche to start considering Accutane settlements instead of continuing to defend the cases.


There are currently more than 5,300 Accutane bowel damage lawsuits pending before Judge Higbee in New Jersey state court and dozens of cases continue to be filed every month.

The Accutane lawyers at Saiontz & Kirk, P.A. represent individuals throughout the United States who have been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease after using the acne medication.

To review a potential claim for yourself, a friend or family member, request a free consultation and claim evaluation.

1 Comment • Add Your Comments

  • Windy says:

    I had used accutane the first half of this year and part of last year. I had to stop taking this medicine because I have been having terrible abdominal cramps, diarrhea everyday and horrible pain in my ribs. I had a lower GI, and the MD says I have IBD/IBS. could this result in Chrohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis?

    Posted on October 3, 2011 at 4:18 pm

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