A Risperdal gynecomastia plaintiff who was awarded $1.75 million in compensatory damages by a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania jury has been given another chance to pursue punitive damages in his case.
The Risperdal lawsuit was the third gynecomastia claim to go to trial in the mass tort litigation currently underway in Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. The plaintiff, a resident of Maryland, was initially awarded $1.75 million in punitive damages in November 2015. However, the trial court reduced the judgment to $685,000 in order to comply with Maryland’s cap on non-economic damages.
Like other plaintiffs with Risperdal cases pending in Pennsylvania, the plaintiff was initially barred from seeking punitive damages because of a trial court ruling that applied New Jersey law to his claim. Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals are headquartered in New Jersey, which forbids punitive damages in product liability claims involving federally-approved medications.
On Monday, a 3-judge panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court unanimously rejected a defense motion to overturn the verdict. The panel also reaffirmed the trial court’s decision reducing the initial jury award. However, the appeals panel remanded the Risperdal lawsuit back to Philadelphia and ordered the trial court to determine whether or not the plaintiff is entitled to punitive damages in light of an earlier Superior Court decision that opened the door to such awards.
“Because the trial court previously concluded that New Jersey law should apply to the punitive damages issue for all Risperdal plaintiffs regardless of case-specific facts, we remand this matter so that Mr. Murray may create an individual record pertaining to the distinct conflict-of-law principles at play in his particular case,” the decision stated. “Because a true conflict exists, the trial court must determine whether the substantive law of New Jersey or Maryland applies.”
Risperdal is an atypical antipsychotic medication approved to treat adults and children who suffer from schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders.
Risperdal’s first pediatric indications were not approved until October 2006. That same month, the drug’s label was updated to indicate that gynecomastia – a condition marked by the excessive growth of breast tissue in males — had occurred in 2.3% of male adolescents prescribed the medication. Up until that point, the label described the condition as a rare side effect affecting just 1 in 1,000 patients.
More than 6,200 Risperdal lawsuits are currently pending in the Philadelphia mass tort program. The majority of these cases were filed on behalf of men and boys who developed gynecomastia while taking the medication, many of whom were prescribed Risperdal as children, long before it had been approved for any pediatric uses.
Plaintiffs claim that Johnson & Johnson and Janssen knowingly concealed the potential for Risperdal to cause excessive male breast growth from doctors and patients. They also contend that, prior to October 2006, the companies illegally marketed Risperdal for use in children without approval from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).