Pennsylvania Appeals Court Won’t Reconsider Risperdal Lawsuit Punitive Damages Ruling

Published on March 27, 2018 by Sandy Liebhard

The Pennsylvania Superior Court has denied a defense motion seeking reconsideration of a recent ruling that could allow thousands of Risperdal lawsuit plaintiffs to pursue punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson and its Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit.

In January, a 3-judge panel of the Superior Court remanded a Risperdal gynecomastia lawsuit filed on behalf of Timothy Strange back to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, ordering the trial court to determine whether or not punitive damages were warranted in the case.

Strange was awarded $500,000 in compensatory damages in December 2015. But like other Pennsylvania Risperdal plaintiffs, he 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 are headquartered in New Jersey, which forbids punitive damages in product liability claims involving federally-approved medications.

However, the Superior Court panel found that the trial court should have considered the law of plaintiffs’ home states when considering whether or not punitive damages should be allowed, opening the door for Strange and other plaintiffs to seek such awards.

Earlier this month, Janssen motioned the entire Pennsylvania Superior Court for reconsideration of the Panel’s ruling. That motion was denied on March 16th, allowing the January decision to stand.

Risperdal Gynecomastia

More than 6,200 Risperdal lawsuits are currently pending in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, all of which were filed on behalf of men and boys who allegedly experienced excessive male breast growth (gynecomastia) due to their use of the atypical antipsychotic drug. Many of these plaintiffs were prescribed Risperdal as children, long before it had been approved for any pediatric uses by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

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 off-label pediatric indications.

Risperdal was not approved for use in children until October 2006. That same month, the drug’s label was updated to indicate that gynecomastia 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.

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