$8 Billion Verdict in Philadelphia Risperdal Trial
Today, following a three-week trial in Murray v. Janssen, a Philadelphia jury sent a message loud and clear to pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, handing down a punitive damages verdict in the amount of $8 billion against the company.
The plaintiff, Nicholas Murray, was prescribed Janssen's prescription drug, Risperdal, as a boy and developed gynecomastia (breast growth). In his 2015 trial, he alleged that the drug caused his condition, that Janssen knew or should have known about the risk, and that the company failed to adequately warn his physician. The jury in that trial awarded him $1.75 million in compensatory damages, which was then reduced to $680,000 on appeal. But at the time, Murray and his attorneys had not been permitted to assert a claim for punitive damages. Rulings from the Pennsylvania appeals courts earlier this year changed that prohibition, opening up Risperdal cases in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to punitive damages on a case-by-case basis and depending on the law of the state where the plaintiff was prescribed the drug. So Murray was the first case to proceed to trial on the punitive damages question, and given that a prior jury had already rendered a verdict on liability and causation, the only questions before this jury were: (1) was there clear and convincing evidence that Janssen is liable for punitive damages, and if so, (2) how much. Plaintiffs attorneys Jason Itkin and Tom Kline hailed the verdict as a just result against a company that has "lost its way," while Janssen attorneys have vowed to appeal.