A man who said he grew breasts after taking a drug manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson will receive $ 8 billion in punitive damages from the company, a Philadelphia jury ruled this week.
Nicholas Murray, now 26, claimed in his suit that he developed breasts after doctors prescribed him Risperdal off-label in 2003 when a psychologist diagnosed him with autism spectrum disorder.
Murray's award is the largest to date among more than 13,000 lawsuits against the company – claiming that Risperdal caused a condition called gynecomastia in boys, involving breast enlargement, MarketWatch reported.
Mountains of suits generally claim that the company was aware of the specific risk, but underestimated it to doctors, according to the report.
Back in 201[ads1]5, Murray won a $ 680,000 compensation award for the same claims. A jury had awarded him $ 1.75 million, which a state appeals court later reduced.
"This jury, like other juries in other litigation, once again inflicted punitive damages on a company that valued earnings over safety and profits over patients," Murray's attorneys, Tom Kline and Jason Itkin, said in a joint statement. "Johnson & Johnson and [subsidiary] Janssen chose billions over children."
However, Johnson & Johnson called the award "grossly disproportionate to the original compensatory award in this case, and the company is confident that it will overturn." [19659002Jury'sLawFirmdidnothavethelawtohearevidenceofdrugbenefits
Professor Carl Tobias of the University of Richmond School of Law said that the punitive damages would likely be lowered on appeal, referring to the Supreme Court's decision that found "few awards that exceed a single-digit degree of punitive and compensatory harm. will satisfy fair process. "
The goal of the $ 8 billion figure, Tobias suggested, was just to send a message.
"A jury, if it is outrageous enough behavior, will award a large number and let the lawyers and judges arrange it," he said.
The Food and Drug Administration approved Risperdal in late 1993 for the treatment of schizophrenia and episodes of bipolar mania in adults.
Murray's suit, and others, claim that the company marketed the drug for unauthorized use with children.
"That kind of evidence in this trial can persuade another jury or judge to do something similar," Tobias said.
With Post wires