A Pennsylvania court has selected two Risperdal lawsuits for trials that will determine whether or not the plaintiffs are entitled to punitive damages.
Both cases were filed on behalf of men who took Risperdal as adolescents and developed gynecomastia, a condition marked by the development of female-like breasts in men and boys.
The first case, Murray vs. Janssen, was decided in November 2015, when a jury in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas awarded the plaintiff $1.7 million in compensatory damages. However, that verdict was later reduced to $680,000.
The second Risperdal lawsuit, Strange vs. Janssen Pharmaceuticals, concluded a month later when that plaintiff was awarded compensatory damages of $500,000.00. (Case No. 3:17-cv-04223)
Murray and Strange – who are residents of Maryland and Wisconsin, respectively — were denied a chance for punitive damages when the trial court judge ruled that New Jersey law should apply to all Risperdal cases pending in Pennsylvania, as Janssen and its parent company, Johnson & Johnson are based in the state. (Case No. 2:17-cv-03702)
New Jersey law does not allow punitive damage awards in personal injury cases that involve medications approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
However, the Pennsylvania Superior Court overruled the trial court judge in December, and ordered that all Risperdal plaintiffs should have a chance to have the laws of their homes states applied to their cases.
The ruling affects the Strange and Murray lawsuits, as well as over 6,700 Risperdal gynecomastia claims pending in the mass tort program currently underway in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
No dates have been set for punitive damage trials in the Murray and Strange cases. However, in two separate orders issued on September 14th, the trail court denied the defendants’ motions for summary judgement on punitive damages and directed that the parties be prepared to discuss trial scheduling at the litigation’s next case management conference.
The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has convened several Risperdal trials since February 2015. All but one plaintiff prevailed on claims that the defendants’ inadequate gynecomastia warnings were responsible for their injuries.
The sole defense win was overturned in November and a new trial ordered.
Risperdal and Gynecomastia
Risperdal is an atypical antipsychotic medication approved to treat adult and adolescent schizophrenia, bipolar disorder in adults and children ages 10-to-17, and irritability in children (5-to-16 years of age) with autistic disorder. It is also frequently prescribed off-label to treat children with ADHD.
Though Risperdal has been on the market since the 1990s, the FDA did not approve the medication 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 Risperdal. Previously, the prescribing information characterized the condition as a rare side effect that occurred among just 1 in 1,000 patients.
Plaintiffs who have filed Risperdal gynecomastia lawsuits claim that Johnson & Johnson and Janssen were aware of its potential to cause excessive breast growth in men and boys long before the label was updated, but intentionally failed to provide doctors and patients with adequate safety warnings in order to protect sales of the drug.
They also accuse the companies of aggressively marketing Risperdal for use in children long before the FDA approved any pediatric indications.