By Peter Loftus 

This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (January 18, 2020).

A Philadelphia judge has reduced the amount of punitive damages Johnson & Johnson must pay in a lawsuit over its antipsychotic Risperdal to $6.8 million from the $8 billion awarded by a jury in October.

The decision stems from a jury's decision to award $8 billion in such damages to a Maryland man who said his use of Risperdal as a child caused enlarged breasts and said J&J failed to properly warn of this risk.

J&J had asked for the amount of punitive damages to be reduced, arguing they were excessive and disproportionate to the $680,000 in compensatory damages awarded to the man, Nicholas Murray, in the case. Judge Kenneth Powell of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas entered his order reducing the amount in the court docket Friday.

J&J said in a statement the judge "appropriately reduced the excessive punitive damages award," but it will continue to pursue an appeal of the verdict. J&J said it appropriately outlined the benefits and risks of Risperdal.

Thomas Kline, an attorney for Mr. Murray, said the judge's reduction "wipes out a valid award of a jury" and fails to punish corporate misconduct. Mr. Kline said he plans to appeal the reduction and seek to reinstate the $8 billion award.

The $8 billion verdict had been the biggest to date among lawsuits by about 13,000 plaintiffs alleging that Risperdal caused a condition called gynecomastia in boys, which involves enlargement of breast tissue. The lawsuits generally claim that J&J was aware of the risk of this side effect, but understated the risk to doctors. J&J has denied the claims.

J&J has had a series of costly legal setbacks. In August, an Oklahoma judge ordered the company to pay $572 million for contributing to the state's opioid-addiction crisis. Overall, J&J is facing lawsuits from about 100,000 plaintiffs over the safety and marketing of a range of products including Johnson's Baby Powder, opioids and medical devices.

Mr. Murray said his use of Risperdal between 2003 and 2008 caused gynecomastia. In 2015, a Philadelphia jury awarded Mr. Murray $1.75 million in compensatory damages, which a judge reduced to $680,000. A punitive-damages phase of the trial started in September and led to the $8 billion verdict.

J&J said it was precluded from presenting a meaningful defense due to the court's exclusion of key evidence.

Risperdal, which treats schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and irritability associated with autism, was one of J&J's highest-selling products before losing its U.S. patent exclusivity in 2008.

Write to Peter Loftus at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 18, 2020 02:47 ET (07:47 GMT)

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