updated 7/18/2008 1:09:31 PM ET 2008-07-18T17:09:31

A jury refused to award damages Thursday to a couple who sued drug maker Johnson & Johnson for $1 billion, claiming its Children’s Motrin nearly killed their daughter and left her legally blind.

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The Los Angeles County Superior Court jury voted 9-3 that the company and McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals, a division of the drug maker’s McNeil PPC Inc. subsidiary, were not liable for the problems of 11-year-old Sabrina Johnson.

“I don’t know how I’m going to explain this. I’ll probably try to keep her away from the news so she doesn’t hear,” Sabrina’s mother, Joan Johnson, said afterward.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Browne Greene said he will appeal.

Joan and Kenneth Johnson claimed in the lawsuit that in 2003 their daughter, who was then 6, was given Children’s Motrin and suffered a rare allergic reaction known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome that caused inflammation of her eyes, mouth and mucous membranes.

The lawsuit asked for $14 million in actual damages, $103 million for pain and suffering and $950 million in punitive damages.

During the trial, Sabrina testified that her eyes were so sensitive and painful that for several weeks she spent daylight hours inside a cardboard box.

The syndrome is potentially deadly and experts say it may be caused by infections and by reaction to certain drugs, including anti-inflammatory medications, anticonvulsants and some antibiotics.

The main ingredient in Children’s Motrin is ibuprofen, a commonly used anti-inflammatory and pain reliever.

One in a million
At trial, doctors testified that the chances of having a severe allergic reaction to ibuprofen was one in a million.

“While we are sympathetic to the pain and hardships suffered by Sabrina Johnson, Children’s Motrin has been proven safe and effective for treatment of minor aches and pains and fever when used as directed and the medicine is labeled appropriately,” McNeil PPC Inc. said in a statement after the verdict.

The jury found in its verdict that Children’s Motrin did carry “substantial and dangerous” potential risks to consumers and that the companies failed to properly provide warnings.

But the panel answered “No” to the question: “Was a lack of sufficient instructions or warnings a substantial factor in causing harm to Sabrina Johnson?”

One juror, Robin Nickel, said the girl’s mother failed to follow directions on the label by giving Samantha Children’s Motrin after the girl woke up with puffy eyes.

“It said on the label, any new symptoms call the doctor, and she didn’t do that,” Nickel said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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