$8 Billion Risperdal Verdict Tops Legal News in 2019

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April 2020 Update: Stephen Sheller has been recognized by the American Association for Justice with AAJ’s 2019 Top Verdict Award.

“Each year, American Association for Justice releases the Top Verdicts Litigation Packet, featuring the opening statements and closing arguments from the previous year’s top cases. 

Congratulations on the impressive result you secured for your clients in Murray v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.  It was the largest received by an AAJ member in 2019.” – Kathryn T. Griffis, American Association for Justice

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December 2019: A landmark verdict of $8 billion for punitive damages against J&J for its antipsychotic drug Risperdal tops the list of legal news sources Law.com and Law306’s most read stories of 2019. The case of Murray v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals is the first to go to trial over punitive damages and the award is the largest to date in Risperdal litigation.

Punitive damages had previously been barred from trials in Philadelphia when the original trial judge passed a global order applying laws from J&J’s home state of New Jersey to all cases in the mass tort. New Jersey laws protect companies from punitive damages in cases where the drug is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

An appeals court reversed that order in January 2018 opening the door for Murray and several other plaintiffs who had previously received verdicts for compensatory damages to go back to the trial courts for consideration of punitive damages.

Punitive damages will also be considered in the more than 7,000 Risperdal injury lawsuits pending in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas mass tort program.

Plaintiffs’ allege J&J knew the antipsychotic drug caused an increase in the hormone prolactin, which in adolescent boys can cause abnormal breast growth. The disfiguring condition, called gynecomastia, requires a mastectomy to remove the breasts. 

Jurors who awarded the $8 billion verdict heard evidence that J&J knew of the link between Risperdal and breast growth in boys and downplayed the risk while developing a marketing strategy that encouraged the off-label use in pediatrics.

The case is Nicholas Murray v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. et al., case number 130401990, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. 

Mega Verdicts, Firm Feuds, and More: The Legal’s Most-Read Stories of 2019, law.com, December 27, 2019

The Biggest Pennsylvania Cases of 2019, Law360, December 19, 2019

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