Lawsuit Award May Set Record
by William Johnson
$257 million verdict in a product liability lawsuit.
The award came late Thursday evening in a case involving the drug
Risperdal, a popular antipsychotic administered for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder manufactured by Janssen, a division of Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., which is part of Johnson & Johnson.
The jury, which has been hearing the case for almost two months, found the firm misled Louisiana doctors about the possible side effects of the drug.
State Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office had argued the New Brunswick, N.J.-based company had violated a state law against misrepresentation and fraud.
Caldwell’s office argued the company sent letters to more than 7,500 doctors and made more than 27,000 phone calls that improperly claimed the drug was safer than other competing medications and minimized Risperdal’s link to diabetes.
The drug has been prescribed to more than
10 million people worldwide and generates about $2.1 billion in annual sales for Janssen.
“This verdict sends a loud message to those who knowingly try to defraud the system. Those who deceive the state must pay,” Caldwell said in a statement Friday.
Michael Heinley, a spokesman for Janssen, said the company is disappointed with the jury’s decision and will appeal.
“We believe the jury was not appropriately instructed on applicable legal standards and that critical and highly relevant evidence was excluded,” Heinley said Friday.
The St. Landry Parish jury’s judgement, which has yet to be formally filed, is expected to set a nationwide precedent.
The drug is also the subject of more than 26 lawsuits throughout the nation that allege it causes strokes, diabetes and other potentially fatal complications in adults.
The state, represented by the Opelousas law firm of Morrow, Morrow, Ryan and Bassett, had originally asked for $440 million in direct damages with other factors that could have pushed the total award to more than $2 billion.
While the state did not get all it asked for, St. Landry Parish Clerk of Courts Charles Jagneaux said the verdict still amounts to the largest judgement ever assessed in the parish and one of the largest in the history of the state.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.