A ruling in Philadelphia Superior Court tossed an order that protected Johnson & Johnson from punitive damages in more than 6,400 cases pending in Philadelphia County over claims that the drug company’s antipsychotic drug Risperdal disfigured adolescent boys.
The ruling came from a three-judge panel that was considering an appeal by plaintiff Timothy Strange, who took Risperdal as an adolescent in 2006 to treat symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome. He sued Johnson & Johnson and in December 2015, was awarded $500,000 in compensatory damages. He appealed to the Philadelphia Supreme Court that the law in his home state of Wisconsin favors a potential punitive damage award.
Strange’s case was one of thousands consolidated into a mass tort program in Philadelphia County claiming that Johnson & Johnson’s Rispedal, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals, caused boys to develop female-like breasts, a condition called gynecomastia.
Cases under the mass tort were subject to a global order that found Jansssen’s ties to New Jersey allowed the cases to fall under New Jersey state law, which protects drug companies from punitive damages in cases that involve medications that had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
In his appeal, Strange argued that Wisconsin law should have applied in his case because he was prescribed Risperdal and suffered his injuries while living in the state. Under Wisconsin law, punitive damages are capped at either $200,000, or twice the compensatory damage award.
Despite Janssen’s objections to keep with New Jersey law, the appeals court sided with Strange, adding that Philadelphia County improperly limited its choice-of-law analysis by issuing the global order over all Risperdal cases.