PHILADELPHIA – On Monday, a new punitive damages trial will begin in a case involving anti-psychotic drug Risperdal that initially ended with a $1 million-plus plaintiff verdict in 2015 in Philadelphia, in a jurisdiction with a history of high-dollar results.
Last year, Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Judge Arnold L. New ruled that the plaintiffs in Risperdal litigations Stange v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Murray v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals would have the opportunity to apply the laws of their home states to try to obtain punitive damages from Janssen Pharmaceuticals, the developer of Risperdal.
Stange v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals was confidentially settled earlier this year.
Prior to Judge New’s 2018 order, a similar ruling was made in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania that prior January. Before that, the pursuit and application of punitive damages in Risperdal cases was prohibited according to New Jersey state law – because Johnson & Johnson is headquartered there.
New previously agreed with that rationale, before his original ruling to bar punitive damages was reversed by the Superior Court.
Plaintiff Nicholas Murray’s Case Returns To The Courtroom
In Murray v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals, involving Maryland plaintiff Nicholas Murray, a jury decided the case in Murray’s favor in November 2015 and awarded him $1.75 million. The $1.75 million jury verdict represented damages for “disfigurement and mental anguish”, though it was later cut down to $680,000.
Murray was prescribed Risperdal at the age of nine in 2003, for off-label treatment of symptoms associated with his Asperger’s Syndrome. Like other plaintiffs who stepped forward, Murray also allegedly contracted gynecomastia, or the development of female breast tissue, as a result.
In the second trial, plaintiffs will attempt to prove that Janssen Pharmaceuticals deliberately ignored and/or concealed evidence that Risperdal could lead to gynecomastia in young males, and nonetheless released the drug into the open market for prescription and use by patients without disclosing the side effects.
With jury selection having taken place on Thursday, the trial proceedings will examine evidence such as testimony, depositions of the plaintiff, physicians, literature from the Food and Drug Administration, studies, articles and more to determine if Janssen Pharmaceuticals committed acts under a legal standard of recklessness to shock the conscience, which would lead to a punitive damages award.
Plaintiff counsel aims to fight cap limits on punitive damages as part of the new trial.
On Wednesday, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and its counsel submitted a list of more than 860 exhibits it intends to refer to at trial. Furthermore, it reserves the right to amend or supplement its list of exhibits and to use at trial any exhibits identified by the plaintiff.
Plaintiff counsel member Tom Kline offered the following statement.
“We are prepared to prove that J&J was reckless and outrageous under the applicable legal standards,” Kline said.
Janssen Pharmaceuticals issued remarks in advance of the trial.
“We are prepared to defend this litigation going forward. Risperdal (risperidone) is an important FDA-approved medicine that, when used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, continues to help millions of patients with mental illnesses and neurodevelopmental conditions,” the company said.
Currently, almost 6,960 lawsuits based in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas and its Complex Litigation Center – most from out-of-state plaintiffs – also allege Risperdal causes young males to contract gynecomastia, and that Johnson & Johnson failed to adequately warn of that side effect from the drug.
In addition to almost 7,000 Risperdal cases, the CLC has several other mass tort programs including cases over asbestos and pelvic mesh, and the percentage of claims belonging to out-of-state plaintiffs has traditionally been in the high 80s.
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org