Punitive Damages Excluded from Risperdal Breast Growth Lawsuits in PA
A Pennsylvania judge has ruled that plaintiffs pursuing Risperdal lawsuits will not be permitted to seek punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson, which would have been designed to punish the drug maker for failing to warn about the risk of male breast growth associated with use of the medication by young boys.
Johnson & Johnson currently faces about 500 product liability lawsuits in Pennsylvania state court, which all involve similar allegations that information was withheld from families and the medical community about the risk of gynecomastia from Risperdal, which may cause boys and young men taking the atypical antipsychotic to develop breasts.
Many of the complaints allege that the former users required surgical removal of breasts, and the lawsuits seek damages as a result of the physical injury and severe psychological injury allegedly caused by Risperdal breast growth problems.
In a ruling issued May 2, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Arnold New indicated that plaintiffs can only go after compensatory damages from Johnson & Johnson, removing the possibility that the drug maker may face substantially higher punitive damages designed to punish reckless and grossly negligent behavior claimed in the lawsuits.
While plaintiffs argued that Pennsylvania law should be applied to the cases, allowing punitive damages, Judge New found that Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals subsidiary, which developed and sold Risperdal, is mainly a New Jersey defendant that falls under the New Jersey Product Liability Act. The drug maker argued that New Jersey law prohibits punitive damages in claims involving medications that had to undergo FDA premarket approval.
As the Risperdal litigation continues to move forward, lawyers involved in the case are scheduled to met for a status conference Tuesday, May 13 at 10:30 a.m., at the Pennsylvania state court’s Complex Litigation Center.
Risperdal Breast Growth
Gynecomastia is a medical condition associated with the abnormal development of breasts among males. The condition is typically associated with disease or metabolic disorders, but it is also known to occur as a side effect of certain medications.
Since other side effects of Risperdal are known cause weight gain, many doctors have failed to adequately diagnose gynecomastia promptly after the symptoms arise. Risperdal lawyers representing boys and young men involved in the litigation allege that accurate information about the risk had been provided, plaintiffs could have avoided the serious physical and psychological injury caused by the breast growth.
In September 2012, it was reported that Johnson & Johnson reached a Risperdal settlement in a case brought by a 21 year old man, who alleged that side effects of the medication caused him to suffer severe psychological trauma and undergo surgery to have the breasts removed. That agreement was reached shortly before trial was to begin in the case.
Shortly after that, agreements were reached to settle Risperdal lawsuits brought on behalf of at least five other boys who alleged that they experienced unnatural male breast growth.
Most of the litigation pending throughout the United States is filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, but a number of cases are also consolidated in the New Jersey court system as part of an MCL, or multi-county litigation, which is centralized before Judge Jessica R. Mayer in Middlesex County.
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