Third Risperdal Breast Growth Claim Before PA Jury, As Judge Bars Punitive Damages

While a third trial continues in Philadelphia over breast growth side effects of Risperdal for young boys, a Pennsylvania judge has outlined the reasoning behind an earlier decision to bar juries from considering punitive damages against the makers of the antipsychotic medication.

Last week, Philadelphia Judge Arnold New, coordinating judge for the Complex Litigation Center, issued an opinion explaining that he had to apply New Jersey product liability law, which has far more stringent punitive damages rules, to cases being heard in Pennsylvania, as New Jersey is where Risperdal is marketed and developed.

The decision means that juries cannot award monetary damages designed to punish Johnson & Johnson for reckless or willful disregard of consumer safety, which plaintiffs argued they should be allowed to pursue due to the company’s failure to adequately warn the medical community or consumers that Risperdal may cause gynecomastia among boys and young men who used the medication.

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Side effects of Risperdal linked to risk of breast growth among young boys, or gynecomastia.

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Gynecomastia involves the development of full male breasts, which has been reported among former users of Risperdal, often requiring surgical breast removal and resulting in severe psychological injury.

Judge New’s decision comes while a Risperdal trial is continuing in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, involving a lawsuit filed by Tim Stange, who took Risperdal to treat Tourette syndrome when he was 11 years old. As a result of side effects of the medication, Stange alleges that he grew female breasts, which were at first hidden by substantial weight gain after taking the drug. When he was 18 years old, Stange had to have breast reduction surgery due to the gynecomastia problems.

According to the lawsuit, Stange suffered emotional damage, due to ridicule heaped on him by his peers as he struggled with both Tourette syndrome and abnormal male breast growth.

The case is the third in a series of bellwether trials in Pennsylvania state court, which are being closely watched by Risperdal lawyers involved in the roughly 1,500 other cases pending nationwide, as it may provide a gauge for how juries will respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.

The first Risperdal case to go before a state jury was filed by Austin Pledger and his family, and resulted in a $2.5 million award in February. In March, however, a jury handed down a defense verdict in a similar claim brought by William Cirba, finding that insufficient evidence was presented by that plaintiff to establish that the teen’s abnormal breast growth was actually caused by use of Risperdal.

Johnson & Johnson has been quietly dealing with breast growth litigation over Risperdal for years, but the number of cases has continued to grow as more families and young adults learn that there may be a link between problems suffered following a diagnosis of gynecomastia and Risperdal use as a child.

In 2012, a different series of cases were scheduled to go before juries in Philadelphia, but the drug maker reached agreements to settle the Risperdal lawsuits just as the trials were set to begin.

Following these latest bellwether trials, if Johnson & Johnson fails to reach Risperdal settlements to resolve the litigation, they may face hundreds of separate trial dates involving claims brought by individuals throughout the United States.


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