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After considering evidence in a recent bellwether trial over the male breast growth side effects with Risperdal, a Philadelphia jury has sent a strong signal to the pharmaceutical industry, indicating that Johnson & Johnson should be required to pay $8 billion in punitive damages for failing to warn users and the medical community about the known risks associated with their drug.
The verdict came in the second phase of a lawsuit brought by Nicholas Murray in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, which originally went to trial in 2015, resulting in a compensatory damages award of $1.75 million. An appellate court later reduced that judgment to $680,000. However, this latest trial was held to determine whether additional punitive damages should be awarded to punish Johnson & Johnson, and deter similar conduct in the future.
Murray is one of thousands of individuals pursuing Risperdal lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, indicating that the now 26 year old developed breasts after he began taking the drug for treatment of autism in 2003, when he was only 10 years old.
The verdict is notable not only for its massive size, but also because it is the first Risperdal trial where a jury was allowed to consider awarding punitive damages, after the Pennsylvania Superior Court cleared the way for such damages in a January 2018 ruling.
On October 8, a Philadelphia jury determined that Johnson & Johnson should pay $8 billion in punitive damages, which is likely to be reduced during post-trial motions. However, the verdict may be an indicator about how other juries may respond to similar evidence and testimony that will be presented throughout other cases.
Following the verdict, Johnson & Johnson officials have called the verdict excessive and argue that the jury was not allowed to see evidence of Risperdal’s benefits.
The drug maker has reached some individual Risperdal settlements, and could face increasing pressure to resolve the remaining litigation in the face of potentially massive punitive damage awards.