Johnson & Johnson are to pay $8 billion in damages to a man who claims that Risperdal, a drug manufactured by the company, caused him to grow large breasts.
A Philadelphia jury gave the ruling on Tuesday after hearing the case of Maryland man, Nicholas Murray.
He has alleged in a lawsuit that he developed a condition known as gynecomastia, causing him to grow breasts. The court heard how the condition only developed after regularly taking J&J’s drug Risperdal between 2003 and 2008.
Risperdal is a widely prescribed drug used in the treatment of autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and irritability. Doctors first prescribed the drug to him when he was a young child to help his insomnia – a symptom most likely arising from his autism.
The court heard that Johnson and Johnson were fully aware of of the risks of gynecomastia and failed in their responsibilities to warn doctors and the public about it.
Back in 2015, Murray was originally awarded $680,000, however that did not include punitive damages. A different judge later ruled that a jury could award a new figure to include those damages.
This is not the only case of its kind. Murray is just one of several claimants in a “mass tort case” against Johnson and Johnson.
They are similar to class action suits, but in Mass tort cases, claimants have to individually prove the cause of injury.
In a statement issued after the hearing, a spokesperson for the company said they are confident the “grossly disproportionate” payout will be lowered, if not overturned, claiming that they were prevented from giving any kind of “ meaningful defense” in court as prosecutors excluded key evidence.
Not surprisingly shares in Johnson and Johnson fell 1.75% in the few after hours trading. People are rightly losing faith in the company after a slew of legal campaigns and negative press. Time for a change J&J?
A spokesperson said:
“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. United States Supreme Court precedent dictates that punitive damages awards that are a double-digit multiplier of the compensatory award should be set aside.”
Aside from this case, the company is already caught up in a large number of lawsuits that concern their other products.
There are currently cases underway that are trying sue J&J over its use of asbestos in baby powder and for its role in the opioid epidemic where the way they marketed their drugs to doctors is under the spotlight.
Murray’s lawyers said in a statement:
“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. Johnson & Johnson and Janssen chose billions over children,”
Reuters have reported that its likely that Johnson and Johnson will try to appeal the decision with the $8 billion figure likely be lowered.