John C. Thornton

At Andrews & Thornton, we are committed to our clients and their cases. The conviction that  we are pursuing a just cause guides and strengthens us throughout the fight for compensation.

I graduated from a law school with a reputation for training litigators: Southwestern University School of Law. Before graduating, I took a deposition and went to trial in Municipal Court.  I successfully tried a case in Los Angeles Federal District Court two weeks after passing the California bar exam.

For the first 10 years as a lawyer, most of my work was for clients with traumatic injury that occurred as a result of carelessness and indifference. My clients recovered millions of dollars. We worked together to set up trusts and annuities that provided generous lifetime support for my clients and their families.  I learned that achieving success for clients was more than working as a tireless advocate: They seek representation over terrible and tragic life events. They have an absolute right to expect their lawyer to do everything possible to protect them from additional pain and indignity from the lawsuit. Clients deserve to be educated and informed about their cases and the process—clear talk, not lawyer gobbledygook.

Representing Americans injured by the carelessness, indifference or greed of defendants enabled me to learn how to represent clients effectively and to empower them to be effective witnesses on their own behalf.   With the help of my clients I have tried over twenty cases to verdict as sole trial counsel, and been on successful trial teams in a half dozen other jury trials.

Airjet Injections for Weight Loss
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In 1985 my practice was expanded by an unusual case—a scientific mystery and my first case involving the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta.   I was contacted by clients who had contracted viral hepatitis B. Many firms had rejected the case because there did not appear to be any answer to the mystery of how patients contracted hepatitis. The legal investigation uncovered that the hepatitis was spread by use of an airjet injection at a weight loss clinic.  

thornton-03The maker of the airjet injector claimed that it was scientifically impossible for virus to be spread by their device. Our work, combined with an Investigation by the CDC, revealed for the first time that “jet injectors can become contaminated with hepatitis B virus and then may be vehicles for its transmission.”  The events were the subject of an article in the Archives of Internal Medicine entitled, “An Outbreak of Hepatitis B Associated with Jet Injections in a Weight Reduction Clinic.” (Jeffrey Canter, MD et al., An Outbreak of Hepatitis B Associated with Jet Injections in a Weight Reduction Clinic, 150 Arch. Intern. Med. 1923 (Sept. 1990).)

Diet Drugs—Pondimin and Redux (“Phen-fen”)
thornton-04We were contacted by a 34-year-old mother with a 14-year-old son, who had just been told she had a deadly heart and lung disease called primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH).

Wyeth (American Home Products) sold two diet drugs—Pondimin and Redux—that were part of the Phen-fen diet craze.  The drugs caused deadly PPH.  The company knew the drugs caused this disease.  Later it was discovered that the drugs caused damage to heart valves as well.
Unfortunately our wonderful client was not able to survive the disease.  However we were able to achieve a confidential multimillion dollar settlement for her that assured the financial future of her family. Andrews & Thornton represented a number of clients with PPH and with heart valve disorders.  We worked in conjunction with some of the world’s foremost experts in PPH including Lewis Rubin, MD from University of California San Diego School of Medicine in order to provide the best results for our clients.

Dietary Supplements with Ephedra (Unsafe Stimulant)
thornton-05In 1998 we were chosen to represent a family who lost a young husband and father to a heart attack after taking a dietary supplement containing ephedra. The manufacturing company claimed that it was scientifically impossible to prove that ephedra caused the heart attack.  We called upon great doctors and scientists to testify that ephedra was the cause of death and obtained full compensation for the family. We represented many gravely injured clients who were sensitive to adverse reactions to ephedra.

As we were successful in demonstrating to courts that ephedra injured our clients, the companies attempted to evade responsibility with bankruptcy protection.  Many told us that our clients would only receive sparse compensation because of the bankruptcies.  We found a way to protect our clients.  We joined with a brilliant law firm in New York specializing in bankruptcy and devised a successful strategy. We were able to generate $300 million in settlements for the benefit of the clients injured by ephedra.

Vioxx
thornton-06I was on the trial team which won a 51 million verdict against Merck for Vioxx. The victory was on behalf of a former FBI agent who suffered a heart attack as the result of taking Vioxx.  The trial was of great strategic importance because it was the first victory before the Federal Judge Elden E. Fallon, the judge “in charge” of the national Vioxx MDL.

Vioxx was not a lifesaving drug, but it put users’ lives in danger.  It was a non-narcotic pain killer like aspirin, ibuprofen or Aleve except it was ten times more expensive. Because of the work of many lawyers we learned that Merck was warned by their own pharmacology expert during development that it could increase the risk of heart attack.

Andrews & Thornton presented the scientific evidence to a panel of the nation’s foremost cardiologists.  All seven agreed that Vioxx was unreasonably dangerous.  Two of the experts’ testimonies at trial were decisive in the victory.

Quinine (Generic Industry Failed to Warn)
thornton-07In 2010 Andrews & Thornton was approached by a client who had permanent life-shortening kidney damage as a result of a reaction to the prescription drug quinine. Quinine was an approved drug for malaria. Our client was prescribed quinine for leg cramps.  The FDA had never approved the sale of quinine for the treatment of leg cramps.   In fact, the FDA had informed the drug industry in 1995 that quinine was unreasonably dangerous for treatment of leg cramps. The FDA received reports of 23 deaths and 157 injuries. The generic industry, led by Teva and Watson, had disregarded the FDA and were marketing the drug without the required warnings to the doctor and the patients against use for leg cramps.  Doctors who prescribed quinine for cramps would not have done so if they had been warned about the risks.

The generic drug companies claimed it was legal to sell quinine because it was a drug sold before the formation of the FDA and modern drug law—i.e., that it was a grandfathered drug. We were able to obtain an abundant settlement (amount confidential) for our first client, and after years of additional litigation we were able to achieve over 50 million in settlements for our clients.

Jack3d with DMAA (Synthetic Ingredient Without History of Safe Use)
thornton-08In June 2013 the family of a soldier who died of hyperthermia in Fort Bliss, Texas, came to us about the dietary supplement he was taking. The weather was mild, and he did not have risk factors for hyperthermia. We discovered that USPlabs was selling a supplement at GNC that contained a stimulant—DMAA—that constricted blood vessels.

Warm blood from the exercising muscles goes to the surface where it is cooled by contact with the air. Vasoconstriction of skin interfered with the dissipation of heat from the victim’s muscles into the air.  The company said we could not prove that the known vasoconstrictor DMAA had anything to do with the young soldier’s death.  The trial is pending; I expect to prove the righteousness of our case.

We discovered that DMAA was not a natural ingredient.  It did not have a history of safe use. DMAA vasoconstriction also caused serious problems in the brain, stroke, and heart attack. The FDA forced the company to stop selling DMAA products, but not before many Americans had been injured.

OxyElite Pro with Aegeline (Synthetic Ingredient Without History of Safe Use)
thornton-09In October 2013, the Hawaii Department of Health and the CDC announced that a dietary supplement had been linked to liver failure. The CDC identified more than 72 victims of the liver failure outbreak. We represent 2 clients with liver transplant and a family who lost their wife and mother.

We discovered that the same company that put the dangerous ingredient—DMAA—in supplements introduced a new supplement containing another ingredient without history of safe use—Aegeline.

Daniel Fabricant, PhD is head of the Natural Products Association (NPA).  While serving as Director of the FDA’s Division of Dietary Supplement Programs, he was an advocate for supplements with a safe history and an adversary of the new untested “get rich quick” supplements that GNC peddles for companies like USPlabs.

thornton-10In 2013, writing for FDAVoice, Dr. Fabricant identified USPlabs as a repeat offender:

This is the second time in little more than a year that USPLabs has produced supplements containing a new dietary ingredient that lack a history of use or other evidence of safety. In the previous case, the company added a stimulant called DMAA (dimethylamylamine) to OxyElite Pro and to a similar product, Jack3D. We were alerted to the addition of DMAA through more than 100 reports of illness, including six deaths, among people who used the products.

The OxyElite Pro aegeline liver injury cases are pending.

New England Compounding Pharmacy
thorton-11We represent clients who were given epidural steroid injections with drugs contaminated with fungus. The case of the corrupt drug maker, New England Compounding Pharmacy (NECC), was national news. 750 Americans contracted fungal meningitis with sadly, 64 deaths.

Most lawyers predicted that victims would receive very little compensation. They reasoned that NECC, a relatively small Massachusetts drug compounding company, would have limited insurance and assets.

We were able to use our experience with bankruptcy to plan a strategy to pursue compensation from all of the responsible parties, including the companies that negligently tested the contaminated drugs, negligently cleaned the facilities, and negligently made the ventilation system.  Additionally we discovered that hospitals had carelessly purchase these high-risk drugs without following recognized standards to confirm sterility. The bankruptcy court recently approved a settlement of over 200 million dollars.

I respect the courage and commitment of clients.  Lawsuits are demanding.   The events are difficult to revisit.  Often there is devastating loss/injury.  Depositions and trials are stressful.  Defense attorneys are often unfair and sometimes abusive.    Fortunately with preparation legal proceedings can be constructive. I am proud to have obtained a full measure of justice for many fine and deserving people.


I have served on a number of committees, primarily concerning scientific and medical legal issues:

  • In re: Ephedra Products Liability Litigation (MDL 1598) – Science Committee
  • In re: Vioxx  (MDL 1657) – Convened a conference of experts in Cardiology to evaluate the safety of Vioxx
  • In re: Quinine (JCCP 4565) – Lead Counsel
  • In re: DePuy ASR Hip Implant (MDL 2197) – Science Committee
  • In re: New England Compounding Pharmacy, Inc. (Chapter 11) – Science and Pharmacology Committee for Inspira Litigation
  • In re: Biomet M2A Magnum Hip Implant (MDL 2391) – Science Committee
  • In re: Bair Hugger Forced Air Warming Devices Products Liability Litigation  (MDL 2666) – Science Committee