Lawyer in $70M Risperdal case expects more large verdicts

By Dawn Geske | Jul 26, 2016

PHILADELPHIA – Early returns were blown away by a recent Philadelphia verdict against Johnson & Johnson, which faces hundreds of lawsuits in the court that allege the company's antipsychotic drug Risperdal caused the growing of breasts in male users. 

A judgement of $70 million was recently awarded to Tennessee child plaintiff Andrew Yount against Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary that produces Risperdal. This was the fifth Risperdal case to be tried in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas.

The lawsuits are in regard to the drug being responsible for physical and emotional distress caused by gynecomastia – the growing of breasts in male patients.

Other judgments regarding the drug Risperdal include awards for $2.5 million to Austin Pledger, who developed size 46 DD breasts because of taking the drug, Nicholas Murray received $1.75 million and Timothy Stange $500,000.

All verdicts have consistently pointed in favor of the plaintiffs, with only one case – that involving plaintiff William Cirba – being decided in Janssen’s favor.

“We think the verdicts have actually been consistent,” Jason Itkin, an attorney at Arnold & Itkin LLP who represented Yount, told the Pennsylvania Record.

“Every jury that has heard the evidence has concluded that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn doctors and the public about the risks of its drug. The fact that the amount of the verdict was larger than the other cases shows that we are learning lessons from the earlier verdicts on how to maximize our clients’ recoveries.

"Obviously not every case will be a $70 million verdict, but we expect more large verdicts in the future.”

Yount’s case determined that Janssen was liable in not disclosing the side effects to persons taking Risperdal. Testimony in Yount’s case looked at the link between the drug and gynecomastia and convinced the jury that Johnson & Johnson intentionally falsified, concealed or destroyed evidence.

“All the cases rise and fall on the specific facts of the case,” Itkin said. “I thought the father’s testimony in the Yount case was especially powerful. I suspect the jury did too.”

Based on the amount of the judgment awarded to Yount, Janssen will appeal the case, as the company believes the award far exceeds an appropriate figure.

“I don’t have a good sense of what Johnson & Johnson’s strategy is right now,” Itkin said. “As a company, I would be troubled by the jury’s finding that Johnson & Johnson intentionally concealed scientific information. From the plaintiffs’ perspective, we are focusing on our next trial.”

More than 1,750 cases have been filed in Philadelphia regarding the use and effects of Risperdal.

“There were not any controversial evidentiary issues in the case,” Itkin said. “So I don’t know exactly what Johnson & Johnson will argue except that they are unhappy with the result.

"The Younts will have a cross-appeal though. We were not allowed to pursue any punitive damages in the case. If Johnson & Johnson persists in appealing, we will be obligated to ask the court of appeals to let us have our day in court for punitive damages as well.”

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