Mass tort cases continue to pile up for Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and their subsidiaries. So is the case with Risperdal, a treatment for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia that was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993 and then became the first antipsychotic approved for adolescents in 2006 for the treatment of irritability associated with autism. Manufactured by J&J-owned Janssen Pharmaceuticals, the drug has made headlines during recent years as thousands of young men have claimed that the drug allegedly caused them to grow noticeable breast tissue, a condition known as gynecomastia.
Well, the courts have seen a recent surge in the number of filed cases making such claims, jumping from approximately 2,000 cases to almost 6,000 cases in the first half of 2017 alone. Currently the largest mass tort litigation in Philadelphia, court documents show that there have been an additional 600 cases filed since June and the number continues to climb.
Slated to begin on October 23, 2017 are the next trials in this deepening pool of plaintiffs; one in California and yet another in Pennsylvania where my firm, Pogust, Braslow & Millrood, along with the Law Offices of Doug Monsour, are counsel for the Plaintiff, Aaron Vilarchao. These will be the first two to go to trial since a Philadelphia jury awarded a record-setting verdict of $70 million (later increased to $77 million due to delay damages)—something that I discussed in some detail in an earlier blog on the topic of J&J’s numerous legal woes.
Many of the problems for J&J seem to be caused by their own doing. By recently terminating thousands of tolling agreements that had effectively put the statute of limitations on hold, J&J has brought about this surge of new filings and placed an unnecessary burden on the court. Further demonstrating the court’s view on this matter is the recent denial of a defendant’s petition for new proceedings in regards to the first Risperdal case to be tried that resulted in a $2.5 million verdict for the plaintiff in 2015. In August, Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas’ Judge Ramy Djerassi made it clear that the motion seemed “calculated” on the part of the defendants and was not warranted.
Thus, these next few trials could be pivotal in setting the tone for future Risperdal litigation. With respect to Vilarchao v. Janssen, we are confident that the evidence will tell a very clear story, and that jurors will ultimately reach the right verdict. I plan to continue posting on the topic as the trial progresses, so be sure to watch for future updates.
Derek T. Braslow is a partner of Pogust Braslow & Millrood, LLC. He is one of the first attorneys to file suit on behalf of families who lost a child, spouse or parent to suicide as a result of psychotropic medication and one of the first to file a suit against investigators, sponsors and institutional review boards for conducting unethical human clinical trials. Derek was voted by his colleagues as a Rising Star and SuperLawyer in the area of Pharmaceutical and Mass Tort litigation.