Punitive Damages on the Table in Latest Risperdal Gynecomastia Trial

Published on January 30, 2019 by Laurie Villanueva

The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas convened another Risperdal gynecomastia trial yesterday, the eighth since February 2015.

Plaintiff: Risperdal Caused Female Breasts by Age 9

According to his complaint, Michael Herman, 23, was prescribed the powerful antipsychotic drug as a child and took it for eight years.

By the time he was 9, he had developed female-like breasts.

Herman alleges that Risperdal caused his gynecomastia. He also claims that Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals intentionally knew about this disfiguring side effect ,  but intentionally withheld warnings to protect sales of their blockbuster medication.

PA Superior Court  Opened Door Risperdal Lawsuit Punitive Damages

Herman’s gynecomastia lawsuit is part of a Risperdal mass tort program that includes 6,700 similar claims. Unlike previous plaintiffs, however, he is being allowed to pursue punitive damages for allegedly fraudulent and malicious conduct during trial.

Shortly before Risperdal lawsuits started going to trial in Philadelphia, the presiding judge decided the litigation would follow the laws of Johnson & Johnson’s home state.

That state would be New Jersey, which bars punitive damage awards in personal injury cases that involve federally-approved prescription drugs.

Since then, Philadelphia has convened seven other Risperdal trials. Five of seven juries have ruled for plaintiffs, with awards ranging from $500,000 to $70 million. While impressive, those verdicts could have been even larger had the juries been allowed to consider punitive damages.

As those trials were underway, Risperdal plaintiffs were appealing the ban on punitive damage to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Last February, the Superior Court agreed to overturn the lower court decision, opening the door for plaintiffs to pursue punitive damages in accordance with their own home states’ laws.

Risperdal and Gynecomastia

Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen subsidiary launched Risperdal in 1993. However, it wasn’t approved for use in children until October 2006.

That same month, the Risperdal label was modified to state that gynecomastia affected 2.3% of adolescent boy treated with the drug. Previously, the condition was characterized as a rare side effect that occurred in just 1 in 1,000 patients.

In November 2013, Johnson & Johnson and Janssen paid $2.2 billion to settle federal civil and criminal charges involving its drug marketing practices. Among other things, Justice Department prosecutors said the companies illegally promoted Risperdal for use in children long before it was approved for pediatric indications in 2006.

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