Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Kenneth Powell reduced an October 2019 $8 billion punitive damages verdict against J&J to $6.8 million. A jury had awarded the figure over allegations that J&J’s drug Risperdal caused the plaintiff to grow breasts as a young boy.
The $6.8 million reduced verdict is 10 times the jury verdict for compensatory damages in the case of Nicholas Murrary, a Maryland man and who began taking Risperdal in 2003 at the age of 9 years-old.
Murray’s counsel has vowed to appeal the decision and have the full $8 billion jury award reinstated. Murray is represented by attorneys at Sheller PC, Kline and Specter, and Arnold & Itkin, LLP.
“The remitted verdict provides essentially no punishment for the worst of the worst of corporate misconduct. We believe that when the merits are reviewed that the $8 billion will be reinstated.”
“The remitted verdict provides essentially no punishment for the worst of the worst of corporate misconduct,” Thomas Kline said. “This ruling defeats the purpose of punitive damages, which is to punish and deter. It incentivizes bad behavior and undermines the right to trial by jury.”
No opinion was given with the judge’s order as to why Powell reduced the jury verdict.
Murray accused J&J of intentionally hiding data showing the connection between Risperdal and gynecomastia, the abnormal breast-growth in young boys taking the drug. In 2006 when Risperdal was approved for use in children, the label carried a warning showing a 2.3% chance of gynecomastia in adolescent patients. However, at trial the jury was presented with data showing J&J was aware that the potential for gynecomastia in adolescent boys was closer to 12%.
In addition to downplaying the disfiguring side effects, Murray also accused J&J of illegally pushing for the off-label use of the drug in children. At the time Murray took the drug, it was not approved by the FDA for pediatric use.
“It wipes out a valid award of a jury which met all of the parameters under the decisional law and constitutional guard rails,” plaintiff’s counsel Thomas Kline said. “We believe that when the merits are reviewed that the $8 billion will be reinstated.”
J&J faces about 13,600 Risperdal lawsuits nationally, with more than 7,000 of those cases awaiting trial in Philadelphia as part of the mass tort program.
“The bottom line is you have to take some responsibility for an $8 billion verdict by looking at the way the case was tried.” Judge Kenneth Powell, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas
In October, Powell criticized the style of the defense in a hearing after J&J filed to have him recused from the case. Speaking directly to the defense, Powell stated “The bottom line is you have to take some responsibility for an $8 billion verdict by looking at the way the case was tried…. It was the way the case was tried by both sides that resulted in this verdict.”
Risperdal is one of several major lawsuits Johnson & Johnson faces making headlines, including opioids, talc baby powder, pelvic mesh and among others. The $8 billion Risperdal verdict topped the list of legal news in 2019.
Judge Slashes $8 billion Risperdal award again J&J to $6.8 million, CBS News, January 17, 2020
Judge Slashes Damages in J&J Risperdal Case to $6.8 Million from $8 Billion, Wall Street Journal, January 17, 2020
$8B Risperdal Verdict Slashed To $6.8M, Law360, January 17, 2020