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Oklahoma County jury finds Botox maker negligent, awards $15 million

An Oklahoma County jury awarded $15 million to an Oklahoma City doctor who said she suffered side effects after a 2006 injection of Botox.

BY NOLAN CLAY Modified: May 12, 2010 at 6:29 am •  Published: May 12, 2010
A jury Tuesday awarded $15 million to an Oklahoma City doctor who said she suffered botulism poisoning after using the popular anti-wrinkle drug Botox.

The Oklahoma County jury found 9-3 that Allergan Inc., the maker of Botox Cosmetic, was negligent. In civil cases, at least nine jurors must agree.

Jurors voted 10-2 to give Dr. Sharla Helton $15 million in actual damages. They did not award punitive damages.

"Hopefully, now people will wake up to the real dangers,” Helton, 48, said of the negligence verdict. "It’s a stepping stone for now for public awareness.”

Her attorney, Ray Chester, of Austin, Texas, said, "I think there’s a lot of people out there that have been hurt by the product and maybe now they’ll have the courage to come forward.”

The California company plans to appeal.

"The negligence verdict … is inconsistent with all credible scientific and medical evidence,” said a company spokeswoman, Caroline Van Hove. "Botox does not cause botulism.”

Helton complained of severe side effects after getting injections of 50 units of Botox Cosmetic on July 14, 2006. It was her fifth treatment for wrinkles. She eventually sold her medical practice and stepped down as medical director of Lakeside Women’s Hospital in Oklahoma City because of pain and weakness.

Attorneys for Botox told jurors the drug does not cause botulism. They also told jurors the doctor never had botulism. They said the diagnosis of botulism came from her friends, who are not experts.

The trial took three weeks.


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