Latest Risperdal ruling an important one
The long and wide-ranging legal battle against the anti-psychotic drug Risperdal and its manufacturer, Janssen Pharmaceuticals advanced with Pennsylvania Superior Court’s decision to uphold the verdict in the bellwether trial from Philadelphia’s Risperdal mass tort program. In that case, the plaintiff’s side, led by Tom Kline, won a hard-fought, month-long trial that concluded with a $2.5 million verdict for a young autistic man who suffered gynecomastia, a condition in which adolescents and young men grow enlarged breasts, because of his use of Risperdal starting at age eight. Janssen appealed the highly publicized verdict for Austin Pledger, 20, of Alabama. The appellate ruling keeping the verdict, handed down by a jury three years ago, was important not only to Pledger but to the thousands of other young men who have filed suit with similar medical conditions. Since there is no medical cure for gynecomastia, some have opted for surgery and have undergone mastectomies.
In this most recent court ruling, a three-judge panel was unanimous in rejecting Janssen’s efforts to overturn the Pledger verdict. Not only that, but the panel also sent the case back for the trial court to consider whether Pledger is entitled to a trial on punitive damages, which had not been allowed when the Pledger case first went to trial. Reinstating the option of punitive damages was a decision also made by the Superior Court in reversing the trial judge’s decision to bar the plaintiffs from seeking punitive damages in any of the Risperdal cases. Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Arnold New had previously ruled that New Jersey law applied universally to the Risperdal mass tort in Philadelphia, but the appellate court ruled that each plaintiff should get the chance to apply the law of their home states for seeking punitive damages.
There are thousands of lawsuits filed against Janssen over Risperdal – reportedly 6,700 in Philadelphia alone. After Superior Court’s ruling, Kline & Specter attorneys Thomas Kline and Charles “Chip” Becker, head of the firm’s Appellate Division, told The Legal Intelligencer: “This litigation has unquestionably turned strongly in the plaintiffs’ favor with many additional listings ahead, including two trials devoted solely to punitive damages.”
Whether a mass settlement of the cases is in the offing is unknown. The Legal Intelligencer quoted a company spokeswoman as saying after the latest appellate decision that Janssen was “disappointed” with the panel’s ruling and that, “we will consider our options going forward.”