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Judge Slashes Damages in J&J Risperdal Case to $6.8 Million from $8 Billion—Update

By Peter Loftus 

A Philadelphia judge has reduced the amount of punitive damages Johnson & Johnson must pay in a lawsuit over its antipsychotic Risperdal to $6.8 million from the $8 billion awarded by a jury in October.

The decision stems from a jury's decision to award $8 billion in such damages to a Maryland man who said his use of Risperdal as a child caused enlarged breasts and said J&J failed to properly warn of this risk.

J&J had asked for the amount of punitive damages to be reduced, arguing they were excessive and disproportionate to the $680,000 in compensatory damages awarded to the man, Nicholas Murray, in the case.

J&J said in a statement the judge "appropriately reduced the excessive punitive damages award," but it will continue to pursue an appeal of the verdict. J&J said it appropriately outlined the benefits and risks of Risperdal.

Thomas Kline, an attorney for Mr. Murray, said the judge's reduction "wipes out a valid award of a jury" and fails to punish corporate misconduct. Mr. Kline said he plans to appeal the reduction and seek to reinstate the $8 billion award.

The $8 billion verdict had been the biggest to date among lawsuits by about 13,000 plaintiffs alleging that Risperdal caused a condition called gynecomastia in boys, which involves enlargement of breast tissue. The lawsuits generally claim that J&J was aware of the risk of this side effect, but understated the risk to doctors. J&J has denied the claims.

J&J has had a series of costly legal setbacks. In August, an Oklahoma judge ordered the company to pay $572 million for contributing to the state's opioid-addiction crisis. Overall, J&J is facing lawsuits from about 100,000 plaintiffs over the safety and marketing of a range of products including Johnson's Baby Powder, opioids and medical devices.

Mr. Murray said his use of Risperdal between 2003 and 2008 caused gynecomastia. In 2015, a Philadelphia jury awarded Mr. Murray $1.75 million in compensatory damages, which a judge reduced to $680,000. A punitive-damages phase of the trial started in September and led to the $8 billion verdict.

J&J said it was precluded from presenting a meaningful defense due to the court's exclusion of key evidence.

Risperdal, which treats schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and irritability associated with autism, was one of J&J's highest-selling products before losing its U.S. patent exclusivity in 2008.

Write to Peter Loftus at peter.loftus@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 17, 2020 17:06 ET (22:06 GMT)

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