J&J must pay $8B in Risperdal case: Jury

Johnson & Johnson, still reeling from settling two Ohio opioid-related lawsuits for more than $20 million, was slapped with an $8 billion judgment on Tuesday over its antipsychotic drug Risperdal.

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A jury in Philadelphia, according to legal web site Law360, hit the drug giant with the staggering payout “after agreeing the company had recklessly ignored the risks that the antipsychotic drug Risperdal could lead to breast growth in adolescent boys as it pushed the medication for use in children.”

The drug comes from a J&J subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., and came about on behalf of Nicholas Murray, a Maryland resident who grew breasts after he started using Risperdal as a nine-year-old in 2003 to help control symptoms related to autism.

A jury had previously awarded Murray $1.75 million in compensatory damages but the jury was prohibited from awarding punitive damages due to a “global order in a mass tort  program" to coordinate the 7,000 plus Risperdal cases now pending in Philadelphia County. The award was later reduced by the court to $680,000.

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The drug has been a costly product for J&J. According to the website, Classaction.com, from 2012 to 2013 the drug maker settled more than 80 such cases for undisclosed amounts. In 2016, another Philadelphia jury awarded $70 million to Andrew Yount and his family, ruling that the company not only failed to warn Yount about the issues surrounding Risperdal but had destroyed evidence related to the case.

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In August of 2012, J&J agreed to pay $181 million to 36 states and the District of Columbia to settle fraud charges related to its unlawful marketing of Risperdal.

The large award for punitive damages will likely be reduced due to a violation of due process, according to Reuters, which noted that the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 threw out a $145 million punitive damage award saying, "few awards exceeding a single-digit ratio between punitive and compensatory damages, to a significant degree, will satisfy due process."

To that end, in a statement, Johnson & Johnson said it would be "immediately moving to set aside this excessive and unfounded verdict" noting that today's $8 billion award "for a single plaintiff stands in stark contrast with the initial $680,000 compensatory award and is a clear violation of due process. United States Supreme Court precedent dictates that punitive damages awards that are a double-digit multiplier of the compensatory award should be set aside."

This story was updated at 8:54 pm ET to note the reduction in the damages for Nicholas Murray