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Jury orders Johnson & Johnson to pay $8B in Risperdal suit

By
Darryl Coote

Oct. 9 (UPI) -- A Philadelphia jury has ordered healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson to pay $8 billion in damages to a Maryland man who developed female breast tissue after taking anti-psychotic drug Risperdal as a child.

The Philadelphia jury awarded the punitive judgment in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas after finding Janssen, the pharmaceutical subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, had improperly marketed Risperdal and failed to warn physicians and healthcare providers of the risk that gynecomastia, the technical name for the enlargement of breast tissue in men, could develop in male children who took the drug.

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Murray was prescribed the drug off-label as a 9-year-old in April of 2003 to deal with issues stemming from autism. Murray sued the company in 2013 eventually being awarded $1.75 million in damages, according to a release by Murray's lawyers following the verdict in 2015.

A judge would later reduce the settlement to $680,000.

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"This jury resoundingly told Johnson & Johnson that its actions were deliberate and malicious," Murray's lawyers, Thomas R. Kline and Jason Itkin, said in a statement. "The conduct that the jury saw in the courtroom was clear and convincing that J&J disregarded the safety of the most vulnerable of children. This is an important moment, not only for this litigation but for J&J, which is a company that has lost its way."

Johnson & Johnson called the jury's decision "grossly disproportionate" with the initial award given in the case.

"This award for a single plaintiff stands in stark contrast with the initial $680,000 compensatory award and is a clear violation of due process," the company said in a statement, stating that it was prevented from "presenting a meaningful defense due to the court's exclusion of key evidence" and that the plaintiff failed to prove the harm he was caused by their client's product.

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"We will be immediately moving to set aside this excessive and unfounded verdict," it said.

The decision is significant in that thousands of more cases against the pharmaceutical giant concerning Risperdal are waiting to be tried.

The jury's decision Tuesday is the latest legal setback for the company that was ordered by an Oklahoma judge in August to pay $573 million for its role in the opioid crisis.

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Earlier this month, the company reached a $20.4 million settlement with two Ohio counties over similar accusations.

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