Lone Risperdal Defense Verdict for J&J Overturned

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The only Risperdal verdict in favor of the defense, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, was overturned by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. The three judge panel unanimously agreed that the trial court erred when it denied the plaintiff, William Cirba, a retrial based on “erroneous evidentiary rulings.”

During Cirba’s 2015 trial, physician’s assistant Michelle Baker was allowed to testify that she believed Cirba’s breast growth was due to “extreme weight gain” and not a result of ingesting Janssen’s antipsychotic drug Risperdal. A jury returned a verdict for the defense, finding that Janssen had failed to warn of Gynecomastia but did not believe that Cirba had grown the female-like breasts. Plaintiff’s counsel argued that Baker’s testimony was given the same weight at trial as a medical expert. The Superior Court agreed that her testimony was “attempting to enter the realm of expert knowledge.”

Baker helped treat Cirba for oppositional defiance disorder as a physician’s assistant from 2005 to 2013, however her opinion is still that of a layperson not an expert and she was not designated or qualified as an expert prior to trial.

“Defendants’ experts opined that weight gain rather than Risperdal ingestion caused plaintiff to appear to have gynecomastia. Baker’s testimony, in which she opined that plaintiff’s weight gain, rather than his Risperdal usage, caused him to appear to have gynecomastia, was the only causation testimony offered by a witness who personally treated plaintiff.” Judge Jack Panella, Superior Court of Pennsylvania.

The Superior Court has remanded Cirba’s case for retrial, limited to causation and damages.

There are currently an estimated 20,000 unsettled Risperdal cases against Janssen.

Superior Court overturns only Riperdal verdict in Janssen Phmarcuticals’ favor and orders new trial, Penn Record, Nov. 16, 2017

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