NEW YORK (Reuters) – Johnson & Johnson must pay $8 billion in punitive damages to a man who previously won $680,000 over his claims that it failed to warn that young men using its antipsychotic drug Risperdal could grow breasts, a Philadelphia jury said on Tuesday.
The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas jury’s verdict in favor of Nicholas Murray came in the first case in which a Pennsylvania jury had been able to consider awarding punitive damages in one of thousands of Risperdal cases pending in the state.
“This jury, as have other juries in other litigations, once again imposed punitive damages on a corporation that valued profits over safety and profits over patients,” Murray’s lawyers, Tom Kline and Jason Itkin, said in a joint statement. “Johnson & Johnson and (subsidiary) Janssen chose billions over children.”
J&J said the award was “grossly disproportionate with the initial compensatory award in this case, and the company is confident it will be overturned.” It added that the jury in the case had not been allowed to hear evidence of Risperdal’s benefits.
Professor Carl Tobias of the University of Richmond School of Law said he expects the punitive damages to be lowered on appeal, citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision which found that “few awards exceeding a single-digit ratio between punitive and compensatory damages, to a significant degree, will satisfy due process.”
Tobias said the verdict was about sending a message.