Irish Independent

Judge says father can sue drug firm over son's death

Lorna Reid and John Maddock

28th May 2005

THE High Court yesterday cleared the way for a man to bring an action for damages on grounds of a claim that his 20-year-old son's suicide was a side-effect of a drug he used to treat acne.

Liam Grant - whose 20-year-old son, Liam, died in 1997 - said yesterday he was relieved the High Court had decided that he and his family could continue their legal proceedings against a multinational pharmaceutical company.

He has claimed his son's suicide was a side-effect of his use of the drug Roaccutane, which is used in the treatment of acne.

Yesterday, the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan, ruled that Mr Grant and his family could continue their legal battle against the Hoffman le Roche company, which makes Roaccutane. The judge noted that, should the action proceed, the costs would be very substantial.

Mr Grant had obtained an order requiring the discovery of up to five million documents. Mr Grant was also seeking an additional four million documents in an appeal against a discovery order. It was estimated the case would take three months.

The judgment held that Mr Grant's constitutional right to proceed with his action under the Civil Liability Act Part IV took precedence over arguments by Roche Products (Ireland) Limited and others that enormous costs would be required to meet the case in circumstances where, the defence contended, they had offered, without admission of liability, sufficient money to satisfy it. Mr Grant, suing on his own behalf and on behalf of other family members, had brought an action against Roche Products (Ireland) Ltd, a number of other Roche companies and the Irish Medicines Board, which deny the claims.

The pharmaceutical company, in turn, had sought an order preventing the continuation of Mr Grant's action. At an earlier hearing, Mr Justice Finnegan was told that Mr Grant had turned down an offer of 37,000 made by the defence, without admission of liability, for mental distress and funeral expenses. The court was told at that hearing that Mr Grant wanted the issue of liability determined and was also seeking almost 700,000 to meet the cost of research he had commissioned.