FOX 11 Investigates Toxic Trials

Who is responsible when a patient died in a clinical drug trial?

An Orange County mother is suing a doctor and a drug company, claiming they are responsible for her son's death during a clinical drug trial.

Augustine "Leo" Liu died six years ago, and his sudden death still haunts his family.

"Now he's gone," says his mother, Marian Liu. "He wasn't just a number. He was my son."

Augustine Liu, 25, was a schizophrenic, taking part in a clinical study involving the drug, Risperidone. It's an anti-psychotic drug to treat schizophrenia. The study was being conducted by Janssen Pharmaceutical, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

Liu's family, Daniel Balaban, says Liu saw the drug as a way to get his normal life back. Liu signed up and then was accepted and cleared for clinical testing.

However, Balaban says the family claims in a lawsuit that pre-study screening and lab tests indicated "that he had abnormalities on his blood work, and on his heart work."

Five days after the first injection, Liu was dead.

Liu's doctor and the drug manufacturer say they are not responsible for Liu's death. An attorney for Liu's doctor said Liu was given emergency medical care, and that Liu's death had nothing to do with the trial. A statement from Janssen Pharmaceutical says "…the facts will show that Janssen acted appropriately in conducting and monitoring the clinical trial."

The lawsuit filed by Liu's family is expected to go to trial at the earliest in September.