Risperdal mass tort case settles in Phila. on first day of trial

By Jon Campisi | Sep 19, 2012

A Risperdal pharmaceutical mass tort case recently settled on what was supposed to be

the first day of trial before a Philadelphia jury.

Aron Banks, an out-of-state plaintiff, sued Johnson & Johnson and Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals in early 2010 over claims that the young man had developed breasts as a result of having taken the antipsychotic drug Risperdal during his pre-teen and early teen years.

The settlement was reached soon after Philadelphia Common Pleas Court George Overton was assigned to oversee the civil trial in state court.

The settlement was confirmed by attorney Brian McCormick, a lawyer presenting the plaintiff alongside fellow attorney Stephen Sheller.

The attorneys are from the Philadelphia firm Sheller P.C.

“The plaintiff was satisfied with his settlement,” McCormick told the Pennsylvania Record in a phone interview. “The terms, including the amount, are confidential, and that was agreed upon by the parties.”

Banks, a resident of Miami, had filed a short-form complaint in the master Risperdal Litigation at Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court back on Feb. 22, 2011, over claims that he had developed a condition known as Gynecomastia as a result of having taken the antipsychotic drug from 2000 to 2004.

Risperdal has been the subject of numerous lawsuits over allegations that the drug, which is designed to treat mental illness, causes male patients to develop breast tissues.

According to McCormick, Banks, now 21, had to have surgery when he was 16 years old to rid him of the excess breast tissue.

The procedure is known as a lipectomy, a surgery similar to liposuction.

Some Risperdal victims have to have full-on mastectomies, McCormick said, although that wasn’t the case with Banks.

Banks’ lawsuit contained counts including negligence, fraud, strict product liability, breach of warranties, and conspiracy.

In the Banks case, Excerpta Medica Inc., Elsevier Science Publishing Company Inc., and Elsevier Inc. were originally named as defendants in addition to Johnson & Johnson and Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

The other defendants, however, were eventually dismissed as defendants in the litigation.

The court docket shows that on Sept. 5, Common Pleas Court Judge Sandra Mazer Moss, who oversees mass tort litigation at the state court, refused to grant Janssen’s motion to dismiss claims for punitive damages.

The record further shows that one of the only remaining pretrial motions left unanswered before the trial was set to begin before Judge Overton was a defense request to quash a subpoena ordering Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky to testify in the case.

The undisclosed settlement ended up making that point moot, although with other Risperdal trials forthcoming, it remains unclear whether Gorsky will be subpoenaed to testify in those matters.

McCormick, the plaintiff’s attorney, said there are about 86 cases currently pending in the master Risperdal docket at Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court, which was created in 2010.

Another Risperdal mass tort trial is set to begin with jury selection later this week and opening arguments early next week, McCormick said.

That case involves a plaintiff who has not been identified because he is still a minor. The boy is from Texas.

That case stems from a lawsuit that was originally filed back in early January 2010, the court docket shows.

The defendants are the same named in the Banks case, and McCormick and his firm are again representing the minor plaintiff, identified in court documents only as “A.B.”

A judge does not yet appear to have been assigned in the case.

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