But when it comes to defending personal injury claims, the company is off to a good start. On Thursday–in the first of more than 400 pending cases to go to trial–the pharmaceutical giant learned it wouldn’t have to pay a cent to a Nebraska man who claimed that Risperdal caused his diabetes. According to Bloomberg, a New Jersey superior court jury delivered a split verdict: While the jury found that J&J failed to adequately warn plaintiff Gary Skala’s doctor that the drug might cause diabetes, the jury also found that Risperdal did not cause Skala’s diabetes and awarded no damages.
J&J’s lead trial attorney, Jeffrey Peck of Drinker Biddle & Reath, pointed the finger at Skala’s “couch potato” lifestyle, emphasizing his obesity and heavy drinking, according to Bloomberg.
“We are pleased with the jury?s decision to reject the plaintiff?s claims,” said Teresa Mueller, a spokeswoman for J&J, in an email.�”Since the early 1990s, Risperdal has improved the lives of countless people throughout the world who suffer from debilitating mental illnesses.” Drinker Biddle’s Peck referred us to his client. Skala is represented by Fletch Trammell of Bailey Perrin Bailey, who did not respond to a request for comment.
Over the last couple of years, J&J has had its hands full with Risperdal litigation. In October 2010 a Louisiana jury awarded the state $257 million after finding that J&J defrauded Medicaid by promoting off-label use of Risperdal and minimizing the drug’s link to diabetes. Last March a South Carolina state court jury handed down a $360 million verdict on similar claims. Last month J&J agreed to pay $158 million to settle a qui tam suit alleging the violation of Texas Medicaid laws.
The biggest settlement could be yet to come. J&J has been under investigation by 40 state attorneys general and the federal government for its marketing of Risperdal. According to Bloomberg, a $1 billion settlement is in place to resolve civil claims, but has yet to be announced. J&J’s Mueller, however, denied that a deal has been struck. “We do not comment on rumor or speculation. We have made no such announcement on a settlement,” said Mueller in an email.