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Report: $8B Risperdal verdict cut to $6.8M

The Legal Intelligencer is reporting that a Philadelphia County judge agreed on Friday to slash an $8 billion punitive damage verdict against a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary in a groundbreaking case over side effects associated with the antipsychotic drug Risperdal.

Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Kenneth Powell granted the post-trial remittitur motion – dropping damages to $6.8 million – that Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, had filed in the case Murray v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals. According to the docket, Janssen’s post-trial motions were denied in all other respects.

While Powell’s two-sentence Jan. 17 order did not outline his reasoning for drastically cutting the $8 billion jury award, the decision brings the punitive damages award to 10 times the $680,000 compensatory award for plaintiff Nicholas Murray, according to The Legal Intelligencer.

Murray’s attorney, Thomas Kline of Kline & Specter, said he believed that, “when the merits are reviewed that the $8 billion will be reinstated.”

“The ruling is wrong and will be appealed. It wipes out a valid award of a jury which met all of the parameters under the decisional law and constitutional guardrails. The remitted verdict provides essentially no punishment for the worst of the worst of corporate misconduct,” he said in an emailed statement. “Further, this ruling defeats the purpose of punitive damages, which is to punish and deter. It incentivizes bad behavior and undermines the right to trial by jury.”

Janssen did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The jury that oversaw the nearly month-long punitive damages trial ruled 10-2 on Oct. 8 to slam Janssen Pharmaceuticals with the multibillion-dollar verdict. The award was solely for punitive damages after the case initially came to a $1.75 million verdict by a separate jury, which was later reduced to $680,000.

The Legal Intelligencer reported that a review of The Legal’s archives showed the $8 billion award was the largest verdict since at least 1994 when The Legal began tracking each year’s largest verdict and settlement. The only higher award was part of a settlement hammered out in 2000 when Pennsylvania received $11.3 billion as its share of the nationwide $206 billion settlement to end tobacco litigation.

Anthony Vecchione, senior reporter, NJBIZ
Anthony Vecchione
Anthony Vecchione covers health care for NJBIZ. You can contact him at: Avecchione@njbiz.com.

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