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Pharmaceutical liability verdict hits major drug manufacturer

Several weeks ago we noted that a major 'bellwether' case involving pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson had settled for an undisclosed amount. To recap, that lawsuit, which many observers felt may set a standard for recovery in such instances, related to the drug Risperdal, an anti-psychotic medication marketed by J&J. Recent news shows one reason the pharmaceutical company may have wanted to settle that suit, as a large jury verdict was returned against the corporation in a similar case.

The lawsuits over the drug allege that the company did not do enough to warn doctors and patients about the side-effects of taking the medication. These apparently include a condition known as 'gynecomastia,' which causes the growth of female-sized breasts in males taking the drug. Risperdal is generally used to treat schizophrenia, though it has also reportedly had 'off-label' uses for other problems with behavior in adults and children.

A U.S. jury in one of these cases has awarded a teenaged plaintiff and his family $70 million, apparently mostly for the emotional distress caused by the medication's side effects. This is the largest verdict in such a case by a wide margin, and J&J has announced that it will challenge the verdict on the grounds that the drug was labelled with proper warnings, that the monetary award is excessive and not linked to actual damages. This is important, as the company still faces 1,500 or so suits regarding Risperdal around the country.

This case points out the reason why many drug manufacturers settle pharmaceutical liability suits. Juries tend to be quite unpredictable and awards can be large, especially in cases involving young people. While every case is different, and not all will command such large sums, the precedent is now in the public and legal eye, at least until the appeal is completed. Texas residents who have questions about this drug or other pharmaceutical liability issues should take steps to understand their legal rights.

Source: Bloomberg, "J&J Hit With $70 Million Risperdal Verdict Over Male Breasts," Jef Feeley, July 1, 2016

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