Dozens of Risperdal Lawsuits Set for Trial in Philadelphia Mass Tort Program

Published on November 12, 2018 by Sandy Liebhard

The coming year could prove pivotal for Risperdal lawsuits, as dozens of cases are expected to head to trial in 2019.

Risperdal Litigation Background

Risperdal is an atypical antipsychotic indicated to treat:

  • Adult and adolescent schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder in adults and children ages 10-to-17
  • Irritability in children (5-to-16 years of age) with autistic disorder

While Risperdal came to market in 1993, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) did not approve its first pediatric indications until October 2006. That same month, the Risperdal label was modified to state that gynecomastia (excessive male breast growth) occurred in 2.3% of adolescent boy treated with the drug. Previously, the label described the condition as a rare side effect that occurred among just 1 in 1,000 patients.

In November 2013, Johnson & Johnson and its Janssen Pharmaceuticals subsidiary agreed to a $2.2 billion settlement with federal prosecutors that resolved, among other things, allegations that they had improperly marketed Risperdal for use in children prior to October 2006. However, that settlement did nothing to compensate the alleged victims of gynecomastia and other Risperdal side effects.

In fact, Johnson & Johnson disclosed in its most recent earnings report that 13,500 Risperdal injury claims remain pending in courts throughout the United States and Canada.

“Product liability lawsuits continue to be filed, and the Company continues to receive information with respect to potential costs and the anticipated number of cases,” the report states. “The Company has settled or otherwise resolved many of the United States cases and the costs associated with these settlements are reflected in the Company’s accruals.”

First of 160 Risperdal Gynecomastia Trials to Focus on Punitive Damages

The massive Risperdal litigation includes more than 6,700 gynecomastia lawsuits pending in a mass tort program currently underway in Pennsylvania’s Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. According to Reuters, that program could convene some 160 trials over the next year, beginning with two on December 3rd that will focus solely on punitive damages.

Risperdal plaintiffs in Pennsylvania were initially denied the opportunity to pursue punitive damages when the trial court decided that the laws of New Jersey  — where Johnson & Johnson is headquartered — should apply to their cases. New Jersey does not allow punitive damage awards in personal injury claims involving FDA-approved prescription drugs.

However, that ruling was reversed last December, when the Pennsylvania Superior Court determined that the trial court should have considered the laws of each plaintiffs’  home state in determining whether to allow punitive damages.

The first punitive damage trials will involve Risperdal lawsuits filed on behalf of plaintiffs from Maryland and Wisconsin, both of whom were awarded substantial compensatory damages when their cases initially went to trial in 2015.

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