The Pennsylvania Superior Court has upheld the 2015 $2.5 million Risperdal verdict for plaintiff Austin Pledger. Pledger’s case was the first Risperdal case to go to trial. Viewed as a huge win for plaintiffs, the decision bodes well for the future litigation of 6,500 plaintiffs whose suits against Janssen Pharmaceutical, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, is pending in Philadelphia courts.
Unanimously, the three judge panel rejected Janssen’s attempt to declare a mistrial due to a change in the plaintiff’s doctor testifying as an expert witness mid trial. The judge’s written opinion states it found Janssen’s accusations about the doctor to be “extraordinary and seemed calculated for maximum surprise.”
“Moreover, we conclude the relief granted by the trial court was appropriate under the circumstances” – Superior Court Judge Eugene Strassburger
Judges also ruled to send Pledger’s case back to trial to determine if claims for punitive damage are appropriate. Recently, two plaintiffs awarded verdicts for Risperdal related injuries were sent back to court for punitive damages after a Pennsylvania Superior Court decision overturned a punitive damages ban earlier this year. Punitive damages are award when it is proven that a defendant acted maliciously or fraudulently. Not all states allow for recovery of punitive damages.
Pledger began growing female-like breasts at 8 years old after taking Risperdal for behavioral problems associated with autism. The condition, called gynecomastia, is permeant and requires a mastectomy for removal. Janssen, who manufactures Risperdal, has been found by juries to have failed to warn doctors and patients of this disfiguring side effect that affects men and young boys. Janssen has long claimed the condition, call gynecomastia, was rare and only effected 1 in 1,000 men. However, Risperdal’s label now warns that the condition is 23 times more common in boys than in men.
Superior Court Rejects Efforts to Toss $2.5M Risperdal Verdict, The Legal Intelligencer, October 31, 2018