Handful of Risperdal mass tort cases settle in Phila., including one that had gone to trial

By Jon Campisi | Oct 5, 2012

A settlement has been reached in the first Risperdal case that has gone to trial in

A settlement has been reached in the first Risperdal case that has gone to trial in


The announcement came Oct. 3 when lawyers for a Texas teenager and attorneys for Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals stated they had come to an agreement in the mass tort products liability case.

The plaintiff in the case, a 17-year-old boy, claimed he developed breasts as a younger teen as a result of taking the antipsychotic drug Risperdal for the better part of a decade.

The lawsuit was filed in January 2010, but the trial in the case didn’t begin until Sept. 24 of this year.

The trial was short-lived, with testimony taking place a mere three-and-a-half days last week, (the judge gave everyone off for the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, and scheduled a half-day at the end of the week), and with the trial scheduled to resume on Thursday, Oct. 4.

Thursday morning, however, the 12 jury members and three alternates were led into Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Mark Bernstein’s second-floor courtroom to be told their services would no longer be required.

“I thank you very much for your services on this matter,” the jurist told the jury members before dismissing them.

Brian McCormick, a plaintiff’s attorney from the firm Sheller P.C., told the Pennsylvania Record that the settlement amount would remain confidential.

The announcement comes after what would have been the first Risperdal mass tort case to go to trial in Philadelphia similarly ended with a settlement on the day that trial was set to begin back on Sept. 10.

The nature of the settlement in that case was also confidential. That case, which involved a 21-year-old plaintiff named Aron Banks, who also resides in Texas, was the first of about 86 is the mass Risperdal litigation in Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court that had been scheduled to go to trial.

Meanwhile, a third Risperdal products liability case was scheduled to go to trial next week, but that, too, was settled before anyone ever set foot in a courtroom.

McCormick, the plaintiffs’ attorney, was scheduled to be lead counsel on that case, which was initiated back in May 2010.

The plaintiff in that case was a minor from Florissant, Mo., which is located near St. Louis.

Jury selection was supposed to have gotten under way on Oct. 4, but the parties reached an agreement before it ever came to that, according to McCormick.

The central allegation in Risperdal cases is that the antipsychotic drug, when prescribed to young men, causes the patients to develop a condition known as gynecomastia, or the development of female breast tissue in males.

The drug is actually designed to treat mental illnesses like schizophrenia and psychosis in adults, but those suing the drug’s manufacturers claim the pharmaceutical was illegally marketed as safe for use in children and adolescents before it ever received such FDA approval.

During trial last week, in the case of the 17-year-old plaintiff, a psychiatrist testified that he believes the drug does, in fact, cause gynecomastia.

The Pennsylvania Record reached out to the drug companies in an effort to obtain a comment regarding the settlement.

In an emailed response, Teresa Mueller, a communications representative, acknowledged the settlement of Thursday’s case, as well as the settlement of other cases, but did not elaborate on the agreement, saying the resolutions remain confidential.

Mueller went on to write that since the early 1990s, Risperdal has “improved the lives of countless people throughout the world who suffer from the devastating effects of serious mental illness.”

While Mueller didn't say as much in her email, other media have reported that the drug companies are not admitting wrongdoing as part of the various settlement agreements.

McCormick, the plaintiff’s attorney, said five cases in all had been settled in the Risperdal docket by Oct. 4.

“The settlement is satisfactory to all five of the clients, including those who were not here in Philadelphia,” McCormick said in an Oct. 4 phone interview.

As for the two Philadelphia cases, the one that settled on Sept. 10 and the other that settled following close to a week of testimony, McCormick said both of the plaintiffs “felt like they had had their ability to address their concerns in court or were posed to do that.”

His clients felt happy to have had the opportunity to face the defendants in person, McCormick said.

“The clients were satisfied,” he said.

In the two aforementioned cases, the clients were teenagers, and the settlement money would “more than adequately” cover the cost of breast reduction surgery, McCormick said.

In most of these cases, the attorney noted, insurance wouldn’t cover the types of procedures the plaintiffs require.

No surgery has taken place in the five cases that recently settled in Philadelphia, McCormick noted, but in four of the five cases plastic surgery has been recommended.

In addition to the physical side effects, many of the plaintiffs in Risperdal cases are bullied in school and can’t participate in gym class because of their gynecomastia, McCormick said, leading them to experience mental and emotional trauma.

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