Judge Slashes Verdict In Risperdal Case
PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia county judge slashed the shocking $8 billion verdict against a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary to $6.8 million, months after a jury handed down the massive award to a man who claimed the drugmaker failed to warn that boys using its antipsychotic drug Risperdal could grow breasts.
Judge Kenneth Powell, who oversaw the case, cut the amount of punitive damages to 10 times the $680,000 in compensatory damages awarded to Nicholas Murray, a Maryland man who had sued Janssen Pharmaceuticals, the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary.
Powell’s two-sentence order did not explain why he drastically reduced the punitive damages award.
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Murray, who “developed female breast tissue” after taking Risperdal, claimed the company engaged in a “pervasive nationwide effort to illegally market Risperdal and downplay its very serious risks on a systemic level,” according to court records.
An attorney for Murray, Thomas Kline of the Philadelphia law firm Kline & Specter, said the ruling “is wrong and will be appealed.”
“It wipes out a valid award of a jury which met all of the parameters under the decisional law and constitutional guard rails,” Kline wrote in an email. “The remitted verdict provides essentially no punishment for the worst of the worst of corporate misconduct. We believe that when the merits are reviewed that the $8 billion will be reinstated.”
In a statement, Janssen spokesperson Andrew Wheatley said the court “appropriately reduced the excessive punitive damages award,” adding that the company would still appeal the verdict.
“The company was precluded from presenting a meaningful defense due to the court’s exclusion of key evidence,” Wheatley said. “As a result, vital evidence as to how the label for Risperdal clearly and appropriately outlined the benefits and risks associated with the medicine was not presented to the jury for their consideration as they deliberated on the case.”
Risperdal was originally approved for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, a small market, The Philadelphia Inquirer previously reported. But the drugmaker worked aggressively to expand its use, making Risperdal a $3 billion-a-year drug by targeting seniors with dementia, and children with behavioral disorders and autism. Critics said many of those uses were not warranted.
In October, a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas jury awarded Murray $8 billion in punitive damages in the first Risperdal trial in which a jury assessed whether to award punitive damages and how much. In 2015, Murray had won $680,000 in compensatory damages over his claims.
Thousands of Risperdal cases remain pending in the Philadelphia court system, the firm Kline & Specter said in October.
The $8 billion award grabbed headlines at a time when Johnson & Johnson, headquartered in New Brunswick, N.J., is battling hefty verdicts and settlements in cases over the nation’s opioid crisis, vaginal mesh implants that allegedly injured women, and baby powder allegedly tainted with asbestos.
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