Continuing a recent string of legal setbacks for Johnson & Johnson, the pharmaceutical giant was ordered by a Philadelphia jury to pay $8 billion in punitive damages to a man who alleged he grew breasts after taking the antipsychotic medication Risperdal.
Nicholas Murray claims he was prescribed Risperdal at age nine to treat troubled sleeping associated with his autism and developed gynecomastia, a condition in which female breast tissue grows in men. Risperdal is used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar.
Doctors are allowed to prescribe non-FDA approved drugs “off-label,” but drug companies are not allowed to promote off-label use. His attorneys allege that J&J failed to warn about Risperdal’s risk of gynecomastia.
Mr. Murray, a Maryland resident, was awarded $1.75 million in compensatory damages in November 2015. Punitive damages were originally barred based upon a 2014 ruling that the law of New Jersey, where J&J is based and which prohibits punitive damages, should apply to all Risperdal cases. However, the ruling was reversed on appeal holding that the law of each plaintiff’s state should govern the permissibility of punitive damages.
The $8 billion verdict could mark a turning point in the years-long Risperdal litigation. More than 13,000 lawsuits have been filed nationwide since 2010 alleging a causal relationship between Risperdal and gynecomastia. The cases are filed in two coordinated actions, one in Philadelphia and another in Los Angeles.
Timothy Clark, a Sanders Phillips Grossman attorney, is the Co-Lead Counsel in the California JCCP Litigation pending in Los Angeles. He said “the verdict demonstrates that jurors will not tolerate J&J’s horrific conduct in targeting children and other vulnerable groups to profit from expensive drugs while downplaying and even concealing the risks of their harmful side-effects. Ultimately, such conduct hurts people and this jury sent a clear message that J&J should be punished for disregarding the safety of patients. We look forward to continuing the fight against J&J on behalf of our clients.”
This Risperdal verdict is the latest black eye for Johnson & Johnson. Earlier this year, an Oklahoma judge ordered J&J to pay $572 million for their role in the state’s opioid crisis. J&J also faces more than 15,000 lawsuits alleging its talcum powder causes ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. Sander Phillips Grossman attorney Danielle Mason has been on trial teams that have secured nearly $1 billion in talcum powder verdicts against J&J.
Sanders Phillips Grossman senior partner and co-founder Marc Grossman is leading talcum powder and opioid cases against J&J and various subsidiaries. He said that the Risperdal verdict is a positive step towards holding the company accountable for placing profits over people.
“Johnson & Johnson claims that their first responsibility is to the people who use their products, but time and again, we see just the opposite occurring,” said Mr. Grossman. “Johnson and Johnson, a company that brought in nearly $82 billion last year, used an organized scheme to profit from promoting Risperdal to children. The jury’s punitive damage award speaks to their outrageous conduct.”