US judge hacks $8-billion damages verdict against Johnson & Johnson in Risperdal case down to $6.8 million

A Philadelphia judge has slashed, from $8 billion to $6.8 million, the amount of damages Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay by a jury last October for allegedly downplaying risks that the antipsychotic Risperdal (risperidone) could lead to gynecomastia. In response, Johnson & Johnson stated that Judge Kenneth Powell "appropriately reduced the excessive punitive damages award," but that the company is still pursuing an appeal to overturn the verdict. 

Powell oversaw a hearing in October into whether punitive damages were warranted after the jury ruled that Johnson & Johnson had illegally marketed the drug. The damages were awarded to a man who had previously been granted $680,000 over his claims that he "developed female breast tissue" after taking Risperdal. The plaintiff, who was prescribed Risperdal as a boy to treat autism, accused Johnson & Johnson of engaging in a "pervasive nationwide effort to illegally market [the drug] and downplay its very serious risks on a systemic level." The company has denied the claims. 

No reason was immediately given for the reduction in punitive damages, which was disclosed in court records. However, Thomas Kline, an attorney for the plaintiff, said the latest decision "wipes out a valid award of a jury" and fails to punish corporate misconduct. Kline indicated that he plans to appeal, adding "we believe that when the merits are reviewed that the $8 billion will be reinstated." 

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