A Pennsylvania state judge rejected a bid for a mistrial this week from Johnson & Johnson unit Janssen Pharmaceuticals in a lawsuit alleging the company’s antipsychotic drug Risperdal caused an adolescent boy to grow large female breasts.
Attorneys for Janssen argued that a mistrial was warranted because plaintiff’s attorneys were trying to pass off an expert witness to testify about Risperdal side effects when that expert, a physician in Pennsylvania, was not licensed in Alabama, where the plaintiffs lived and where physician had examined the boy.
The physician, Dr. David Goldstein, had opted to withdraw from the Risperdal gynecomastia lawsuit after learning that Janssen’s attorneys had suggested he had violated Alabama law by not working alongside a doctor who was licensed to practice law in Alabama.
Judge Ramy Djerassi rejected the mistrial bid, and ruled that Janssen had effectively stifled testimony from the physician. “Because of the filing of the motion and because of the chilling effect that evidently occurred with this witness, then cause has been shown for discovery to continue in this matter,” he said.
The ruling was highly opposed by Janssen’s attorneys. “We framed our entire defense on this general and specific causation report,” Janssen attorney Diane Sullivan said. “This trial, your honor, cannot proceed in any fair fashion at this juncture if you’re going to allow a whole new expert.”
Plaintiff’s attorneys countered with the argument that a new expert was needed due to what they said was the defense’s last-minute attempt to blow up their case. Ultimately, Judge Djerassi sided with the plaintiffs by allowing for another expert witness.
The lawsuit involves the case of 20-year-old Austin Pledger, who at age 7 began a five-year course of Risperdal to treat irritability with autism. His lawsuit claims that Janssen was aware that the drug caused a hormonal imbalance that could lead to the development of breast tissue in boys and young men, a condition known as gynecomastia. However the company failed to include warnings on the drug’s packaging.
Source: Law 360