Controversy Over Arkansas $1.2 Billion Risperdal Lawsuit Award
Written by Stephen Fields on June 5, 2014
Lawsuits over the antipsychotic Risperdal continue to be filed on behalf of families who are reeling from the drug’s potential side effects. Male children have reportedly developed breasts, a condition known as gynecomastia, after using it. Claimants have accused Johnson & Johnson, along with its Janssen unit, for failing to adequately warn the public. Many of the Risperdal lawsuits further allege that J&J and Janssen intentionally misled consumers and the medical community with regard to the drug’s risks.
Johnson & Johnson has been under fire for years over deceptive marketing practices it supposedly used to promote its antipsychotic. In addition to hundreds of Risperdal lawsuit claims filed by injured families and individuals, several states have filed formal complaints.
One such complaint was filed in 2007 by Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. In 2012, the jury that heard the case found that J&J engaged in “false or deceptive acts,” prompting the judge to fine the company $1.25 billion.
That settlement has been in contention ever since.
Arkansas Files Risperdal Lawsuit Over J&J’s Misleading Claims
The lawsuit filed by McDaniel made several allegations against Johnson & Johnson and Janssen. It accused both companies of misleading thousands of Arkansas doctors in a 2003 letter asserting that Risperdal was safer to use than other medications.
The complaint also accused the companies of defrauding the Medicaid program by downplaying the risks associated with use of the drug. McDaniel’s lawsuit went on to allege that J&J and Janssen promoted the drug inappropriately – specifically, for unapproved uses among young people and the elderly.
The state estimated that 250,000 prescriptions for Risperdal has been filled via the Medicaid program. It asked the judge to assign a $5,000 fine for each incident, totaling $1.25 billion. Following jury deliberation, the judge overseeing the case did exactly that.
Johnson & Johnson Argues That The Ruling Was Inappropriate
The amount awarded to the state of Arkansas was the largest of its kind for a Risperdal lawsuit. Johnson & Johnson appealed the decision on several grounds.
The company argued that the judge’s ruling violated clauses in the Arkansas and United States Constitutions prohibiting excessive fines. It also claimed that the ruling violated both documents’ free speech provisions. Lastly, J&J disputed the $1.2 billion penalty on the grounds that it was made due to a misinterpretation of the Arkansas Medicaid Fraud False Claims Act (MFFCA) and Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA).
In response to the manufacturer’s appeal, dozens of state attorneys general wrote to the court to support its original ruling. Despite their collective effort, Johnson & Johnson was able to convince the Arkansas Supreme Court to overturn it.
Arkansas Supreme Court Reverses The $1.2 Billion Settlement
After reviewing the arguments presented by J&J, Arkansas’s highest court tossed out the $1.2 billion penalty. The court’s opinion1 was that the judge had not only erred when establishing fines on the grounds of defrauding Medicaid, but mistakenly applied a law pertaining to health-care facilities in order to do so. Given that neither Johnson & Johnson nor Janssen Pharmaceuticals operate as health-care facilities, the approach was flawed.
The Arkansas Supreme Court saw fit to overturn the ruling and throw out the $1.2 billion Risperdal lawsuit settlement. It’s worth noting, however, that the decision was far from unanimous. Three of the 7 justices dissented.
State AG Asks Court To Restore Risperdal Lawsuit Settlement
Attorney General McDaniel asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to revisit the case, reexamine the details therein, and restore the original ruling. He argued that the court made its majority decision based on issues that had not been previously introduced, specifically those related to the application of the Medical Fraud False Claims Act.
McDaniel’s Appeal To The Court Is Denied
Although McDaniel sought to have the $1.2 billion penalty reinstated, the Arkansas Supreme Court denied his request for the high court to reconsider its decision. This time, there were two dissenting justices.
Nonetheless, hundreds of families are consulting Risperdal attorneys. They too allege that Johnson & Johnson used deceptive marketing tactics to promote the drug’s use. They also claim the company was less-than-forthcoming about the risks. But the consequences are being felt on a far more personal level. Many families have watched as their sons cope with the emotional pain and distress that accompany gynecomastia after using Risperdal.
If you or your son has experienced abnormal breast development after taking Risperdal, you may be eligible to pursue compensation. Contact us today at 1-888-210-9968 for a free, no-obligation consultation. Our Risperdal settlement attorneys will discuss your legal options and answer any questions you have about filing a claim.1. SUPREME COURT OF ARKANSAS – Opinion