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Risperdal Cases Against J&J Continue to Grow in PA Mass Tort Program

Another Case Began on March 20, And Many More Are On Deck
J&J headquarters
J&J is not settling many Risperdal cases filed in a mass tort program in Philadelphia that has reached a record volume of cases. Dave Schatz

PHILADELPHIA, PA–In Philadelphia's mass tort program, thousands are suing Brunswick-based Johnson & Johnson (J&J) over alleged injuries caused by the Pharma's Risperdal medication and the volume of cases on file has grown.

The amount of cases increased by 550 last year, up nearly 40% from 2015, reports the Legal Intelligencer.

The drugmaker is simply not settling the cases compiled in Philadelphia state court over its antipsychotic, Risperdal, once a blockbuster drug for J&J, but one that got the company in trouble because of the way it was marketed by the company.

Though Janssen, the J&J unit responsible for marketing Risperdal, has settled with attorneys on the West Coast for small amounts of about $2,000 a case, that's simply not enough for a group of other attorneys partnering in Risperdal litigation in Philadelphia. And that group has filed thousands of cases against the pharma that are, except for a couple, not being settled out of court. 

“J&J does whatever they can to win,” like "bringing [to court] new experts" to testify for the Pharma, said a person familiar with the matter, or changing law firms that represent them, on top of appealing each and every case they lose. 

Thomas Kline, an attorney spearheading Risperdal litigation in partnership with attorneys Jason Itkin and Stephen Sheller, recently said they’ve added more than 540 new cases to the mass tort during a recent two month period.

But so-called “tolling agreements” between law firms and company’s prevent the public from knowing the actual number of cases in the system.

Kline cited Janssen’s decision to end a tolling agreement, following its $70 million loss in a Risperdal case in Philadelphia this past July as a one factor that might be driving the increase in Risperdal cases.

Moreover, when J&J does settle out of court, it usually insists on secrecy – not revealing to the public the dollar amount it agrees to pay the plaintiff. Thus, the only time figures are typically disclosed would come after juries reach verdicts against the company, and payouts are awarded to plaintiffs in open court. 

Risperdal allegedly causes boys to grow female breast tissue. The recent $70 verdict was among one of the six largest product-defect cases in the U.S. during 2016, as Bloomberg Businessweek, points out in its March 13 issue. 

The other five large product-defect verdicts that J&J was hit with in 2016 are a $1 billion hip implant judgment in Dallas federal court, three Talcum Powder verdicts in St. Louis state court awarding: $72 million, $70 million, and $55 million respectively, and an additional $502 million hip implant loss, again in Dallas. 

J&J is up against more than "17 trials in state and federal courts this year in cases blaming five J&J products for injuries and death," writes Marget Cronin Fisk and Jef Feeley in the Businessweek article titled: The Lawsuits Keep Coming For Johnson & Johnson. 

"[The cases] follow trial losses on some of those products, including a $1 billion verdict against the company in December over hip implants and an earlier $72 million verdict over claims its talcum powder causes ovarian cancer."

Though "litigation is routine for drugmakers," like J&J, the magazine cites 100,000 claims against the pharma, with the number of claims increasing, referring to a rare "pileup of bad verdicts." 

Still, J&J has "$42 billion of cash on hand," notes the magazine, describing a "mushrooming caseload combined with [a myriad of] product recalls and little innovation," as reasons the Hub City pharma giant's growth and profit have been stalled.

“I think that has been part of what has weighed on J&J’s shares the past few years,” Jason McGorman, a financial analyst, with Bloomberg Intelligence, told Businessweek, while a portfolio manager was quoted as saying the verdicts have damaged J&J's reputation.

But "J&J disputes the claims in the suits and is fighting them, says [J&J] spokeswoman Samantha Gilham," according to the magazine. And, "the coming cases [also] include the first trials, starting in April, about claims that blood thinner Xarelto causes uncontrolled bleeding."

Gilham also told the magazine that the pharma believes it has strong "grounds for reversal.”

The magazine suggests that some of the trials are "test cases" and could help determine how much J&J may have to dish out. 

At the end of last year, the pharma giant also "lost an appeal to throw out an $11.1 million award to a South Dakota woman who sued over the pain caused by the company’s vaginal mesh implant, used to strengthen weak pelvic muscles," wrote Fisk and Feeley.

"Almost 55,000 claims over the mesh are pending in courts [nationwide]," they continue, noting J&J said in a recent regulatory filing that many new cases dealing with alleged J&J product-defects continue to be filed.