Two boys can seek punitive damages from Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals on their claims that the company failed to warn them that its antipsychotic Risperdal could cause them to develop female-like breasts, a Pennsylvania judge ruled.
The cases were a part of a mass tort program in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, where about 6,700 cases are pending. In May 2014, Judge New had issued a global order for the Risperdal mass tort program that because of Janssen’s business ties to New Jersey, the company could fall under that state’s law, which protects drug companies against punitive damages if claims are related to drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which Risperdal is.
Some cases in the mass tort have been tried, and some have resulted in wins for plaintiffs, including plaintiff Timothy Strange, who was awarded $500,000 in compensatory damages in December 2015, and Nicholas Murry who received $1.75 million in compensatory damages for his claims.
Based on those wins, plaintiffs asked the Pennsylvania Superior Court to reconsider Judge New’s global order on punitive damages, and in January a three-judge panel found that Judge New had improperly barred punitive awards for the cases in the mass tort. Last week, Judge New sealed the deal when he determined that the law on punitive damages should be based on Strange and Murry’s home states of Wisconsin and Maryland.
No trial dates have yet been set for the punitive damage phases for either Strange or Murry.