A Philadelphia jury on Tuesday said that Johnson & Johnson (J&J) must pay $8 billion in punitive damages to a man over his claims that a drug manufactured by the US firm caused him to grow breasts.
The verdict in favor of Nicholas Murray, 26, came first in one of thousands of Risperdal cases pending in Pennsylvania.
Murray, like other male plaintiffs in the mass tort litigation over Risperdal, alleges that he developed breasts after being prescribed the medicine and taking it from 2003 to 2008. A psychologist prescribed the drug after diagnosing him with autism spectrum disorder. In late 1993, the drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating schizophrenia and episodes of bipolar mania in adults.
Four years ago, a jury awarded Murray $1.75 million after finding that J&J was negligent in failing to warn consumers of the risks. A state appeals court upheld the verdict last year, but reduced it to $680,000.
“This jury, as have other juries in other litigations, once again imposed punitive damages on a corporation that valued profits over safety and profits over patients,” Murray’s lawyers, Tom Kline and Jason Itkin, said. “Johnson & Johnson and [subsidiary] Janssen chose billions over children,” they said.
J&J said the award was “grossly disproportionate with the initial compensatory award in this case, and the company is confident it will be overturned.” It added that the jury in the case had not been allowed to hear evidence of Risperdal’s benefits.
Plaintiffs claim that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn of the risk of gynecomastia (the development of enlarged breasts in males) associated with Risperdal, which they say J&J marketed for unapproved use with children.
Plaintiffs in the mass tort litigation had been barred from seeking punitive damages since 2014, when a state court judge ruled that the law of New Jersey (which prohibits punitive damages and is J&J’s home state) should be applied globally to the cases.
In 2018, a Pennsylvania Superior Court ruling cleared the way for punitive damages awards, holding that the law of each plaintiff’s state should instead apply.
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