The Pennsylvania jury empaneled in the state’s second bellwether trial of a Risperdal gynecomastia lawsuit has found that Janssen Pharmaceuticals failed to adequately warn patients that the medication could cause boys to experience excessive breast growth. But it opted not to award the plaintiff any damages, after finding that the breast development he experienced was not linked to his use of the powerful antipsychotic medication.
Despite the jury’s disappointing decision on damages, the plaintiff’s lawyer still characterized the verdict as a “significant setback” for the manufacturers of Risperdal. “Within a month, Janssen has twice been found to have failed to warn physicians treating mentally disabled and adolescents of the risks of this powerful anti-psychotic drug,” the attorney told Reuters shortly after the March 20th decision was rendered in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
Just last month, a jury hearing another Risperdal lawsuit in the same court awarded $2.5 million in compensatory damages to a man who had developed gynecomastia after taking the drug as a child to control symptoms associated with autism. Both of these cases are part of a bellwether trial program in a mass tort litigation currently underway in Pennsylvania that includes nearly 1,300 cases filed over male breast growth and other alleged Risperdal side effects. The outcome of these trials could provide insight into how juries might decide other gynecomastia claims involving the medication.
The first two bellwether lawsuits were brought on behalf of men who were both prescribed Risperdal off-label while they were minors. While it was first brought to market in the early 1990s, the medication did not receive U.S. clearance for any pediatric indications until 2006. However, plaintiffs in these and other Risperdal lawsuits accuse Johnson & Johnson and it Janssen unit of illegally promoting the drug’s use in children long before that occurred.
According to a report from Law360, the second jury’s finding of negligence in regard’s to Janssen warnings could allow the plaintiff – who resides in Pennsylvania – to pursue punitive damages against the company. Last year, a Philadelphia judge barred such awards, after finding that the cases were subject to a New Jersey law that disallowed punitive damages in claims involving prescription medications that had been approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
“We can get this Pennsylvania case before the Superior Court, so that the issue is joined as to whether punitive damages are applicable to a Pennsylvania plaintiff suing a Pennsylvania defendant in the Pennsylvania courts,” his attorney told Law360.com.