Victory for Risperdal Plaintiffs

. By Jane Mundy

November was a good month for Risperdal gynecomastia plaintiffs, involving a multi-plaintiff case before a federal judge in St. Louis. And the only verdict that favored Johnson & Johnson in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has been reversed.

In the Missouri Risperdal lawsuit, Johnson & Johnson asserted that the multi-plaintiff case was fraudulently joined due to a lack of personal jurisdiction. But a federal judge rejected the drug company’s assertions and has remanded the lawsuit to St. Louis Circuit Court. In his November 29 order, U.S. District Judge Ronnie White said that, “Defendants argue that the non-Missouri citizen plaintiffs are fraudulently joined with the Missouri plaintiffs because the out-of-state plaintiffs cannot establish personal jurisdiction under Missouri law. Courts in this district have consistently held that an alleged lack of personal jurisdiction does not establish fraudulent joinder.”

The 72 plaintiffs are residents of 24 states, including Missouri. According to the lawsuit, they all claim to have “suffered damages as a result of their use of the drug Risperdal in any of its forms, including Risperdal CONST A and/or Invega, which allegedly was designed, developed, tested, labeled, packaged, distributed, marketed, and sold throughout the United States by Defendants.” The order of remand is Case No. 4:17CV1254 RLW.

“The court follows the approach taken by the district courts in the Eastern District of Missouri, holds that Plaintiffs’ claims are not fraudulently joined, and finds that complete diversity is absent,” explained Judge White.

Three judges on a panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed a case that concluded in March 2015, where jurors were unable to reach a decision that Risperdal had caused the Plaintiff's gynecomastia. But they did find that Johnson & Johnson and its Janssen Pharmaceuticals subsidiary had failed to properly warn patients and doctors that Risperdal may cause excessive male breast growth. The plaintiff was denied financial damages, but he will have another day in court.

Last month the three-judge panel found that the trial court had wrongly allowed a physician's assistant (who had treated the Plaintiff) to testify as an expert witness, and ordered a new trial limited to issues of causation and damages, according to the law firm Bernstein Liebhard LLP.

This was the only verdict that favored Johnson & Johnson in the mass tort program underway in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. (Superior Court of Pennsylvania case 2451 EDA 2015). Over 6,000 Risperdal lawsuits have been centralized in this program, and the Pennsylvania Risperdal litigation has been ongoing since February 2015. To date, four juries awarded plaintiffs damages from $500,000 to $70 million. Johnson& Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, its subsidiary, have been granted summary judgment in a few other cases, and some cases were settled just before trial.

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