A Wisconsin man who won a half-million dollar verdict against Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals over emotional distress he suffered when he grew large breasts after taking the company’s antipsychotic drug Risperdal, asked the judge for a new trial on damages.
Plaintiff Timothy Strange said in a post-trial motion that he was unfairly prevented from pursuing a claim for punitive damages during the trial and unable to ask the jury for additional damages because of judicial errors in pretrial orders and the judge’s refusal to give instructions to the Philadelphia jury who heard the case.
Strange claims Judge Arnold New erroneously dismissed punitive damages in his case before the trial began because he applied New Jersey law in all Risperdal cases, which mistakenly precluded Janssen from facing punitive liability. Even if New Jersey law applies, Strange contends, it was wrong to dismiss his claim for punitive damages.
A Philadelphia jury deliberated six hours before finding Janssen negligent in not adequately warning the public that Risperdal could cause adolescent boys to grow female breasts, a condition known as gynecomastia. Strange’s lawsuit as the third in a string of victories alleging Risperdal side effects and Janssen’s hiding of the drug’s risks.
Strange began taking Risperdal in 2006 to treat symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome. Risperdal’s warning label stated at the time that the risk of gynecomastia in boys taking the drug was less than one in 1,000. Strange’s attorneys argued that Johnson & Johnson and Janssen had received data years earlier that showed the gynecomastia risk was much higher in adolescent boys. Strange ultimately underwent a mastectomy to remove the enlarged breast tissue.
Earlier this year, Philadelphia juries slapped Janssen with a total of $4.25 million in damages in two separate Risperdal lawsuits. A jury in a third case found Janssen had negligentaly failed to warn about the Risperdal risks, but did not agree that the drug had been a substantial contributing factor to the plaintiff developing gynecomastia.
More than 1,600 Risperdal lawsuits are pending as part of a mass tort program in the court. Even more lawsuits are pending in state court in Los Angeles. Two more Risperdal cases are scheduled to begin in Philadelphia this spring.