Johnson & Johnson Hit with $70M Risperdal Verdict

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By Julie A. Steinberg

July 1 — A Philadelphia jury told Johnson & Johnson to pay $70 million to the family of a Tennessee boy who alleged he developed female-like breasts caused by the antipsychotic drug Risperdal ( A.Y. v. Janssen Pharm., Inc., Pa. Ct. Com. Pl., No. 130402094, verdict 7/1/16 ).

The July 1 award, handed out in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, is the fifth verdict in which a jury found that Johnson & Johnson and subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. failed to warn about Risperdal's risks, plaintiffs' attorney Thomas R. Kline told Bloomberg BNA.

Some 1,500 Risperdal cases are still pending in mass tort proceedings in Philadelphia, Kline, of Kline & Specter in Philadelphia, said.

Appeal Planned

The companies will appeal the verdict.

“We believe this verdict is not justified by the evidence, and that the award is clearly excessive and far out of line with any factual assessment of actual damages,” Janssen said in a statement e-mailed to Bloomberg BNA July 1.

“Going forward, we will seek a review by the trial court and appellate court, if necessary,” Janssen said. “We know that dealing with disorders of the brain is very difficult, and we sympathize with the plaintiff in this case and his family.”

Andrew Yount's parents alleged their son, now 16, developed breasts as a five-year-old after several months of taking Risperdal to treat a psychiatric disability.

The jury found the drug caused the condition, known as gynecomastia, and that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn doctors about the risk, Kline said.

The panel answered “yes” to a question asking whether the company had concealed and falsified information, Kline said.

“The people of Philadelphia clearly saw that Johnson & Johnson behaved irresponsibly in pushing their drug into the children’s market before it could be thoroughly tested and approved, and behaved even more irresponsibly when they downplayed the risk of gynecomastia,” according to a statement on the website of Arnold & Itkin LLP.

Attorney Jason Itkin tried the case for the plaintiffs.

But Janssen said, “During the trial, the jury heard evidence that the FDA-approved label properly warned of Risperdal's potential side effects, that the plaintiff’s physical condition was not caused by using the medication and that the plaintiff benefited from using Risperdal.”

The $70 million award is compensatory damages. An earlier ruling that barred punitive damages in the Risperdal suits is on appeal, Kline said.

Previous Trials

The size of this verdict dwarfs those in prior cases held in the mass proceedings in Philadelphia.

A jury awarded $2.5 million in the first Risperdal trial, PP v. Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharm., No. 120401997 (43 PSLR 257, 3/2/15).

In the second trial, W.C. v. Janssen Pharm. Inc., No. 130301803, the panel found failure-to-warn but didn't find that the drug caused the plaintiff's harm.

In the third verdict, Murray v. Janssen Pharm. Inc., No. 130401990, the jury awarded $1.75 million (43 PSLR 1308, 11/16/15). The fourth case, Stange v. Janssen Pharm., Inc., resulted in a $500,000 verdict.

The defendants settled a small group of Risperdal suits confidentially in 2012 (40 PSLR 1226, 10/29/12).

Another case, Moffat v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals, was settled confidentially in May, according to a statement published on the Arnold & Itkin website at that time.

Janssen, as well as attorneys for the Risperdal plaintiffs, said then the Moffat settlement was strictly about that case, and nothing indicated an interest in global settlement talks, the May statement said.

Health-Fraud Settlement

In 2013, J&J agreed to pay $2.2 billion to resolve criminal and civil investigations by federal officials and attorneys general in 45 states into allegations that it illegally marketed the drug to children and the elderly (41 PSLR 1345, 11/11/13).

The settlement, one of the largest U.S. health-fraud penalties in history, also included marketing claims about two other J&J drugs.

Kline, who is one of the lead plaintiffs' counsel in the mass proceedings, said July 1 that no settlement negotiations are currently underway.

Kline & Specter and Arnold & Itkin represented the plaintiffs.

Drinker, Biddle & Reath represented the defendants.

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie A. Steinberg in Washington at jsteinberg@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at spatrick@bna.com

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