Huge Risperdal verdict could be boon for Arkansas, private attorneys

John O'Brien Apr. 26, 2012, 8:00am


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Legal Newsline) - Johnson & Johnson has received more bad news in its effort to combat lawsuits alleging the company improperly marketed the prescription antipsychotic drug Risperdal.

An Arkansas jury found earlier this month that the company had minimized risks associated with the drug in a letter sent in 2003 to thousands of doctors in the state. Assessing a $5,000 fine for each Risperdal prescription added up to a $1.1 billion assessed by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox.

Fox had a failed run at state Supreme Court in 2010. The case was brought by Attorney General Dustin McDaniel through private lawyers he hired.

"We are disappointed with the judge's decision on penalties," the company said in a statement, according to an NPR report.

The company added that it will ask for a new trial before an appeal, and that it had "acted responsibly and fully complied with all laws and regulations regarding its antipsychotic prescription medication Risperdal."

If the verdict stands, it will mean a windfall for Bailey Perrin Bailey, the Houston firm who pushed cases against Johnson & Johnson, as well as similar ones against Eli Lilly & Co. and AstraZeneca, in Arkansas and other states.

The firm has donated to several state attorneys general around the country. Though no one at the firm has contributed directly to McDaniel, Kenneth Bailey did give the Arkansas Democratic Party $70,000 in 2006.

The firm also represented Arkansas in an $18.5 million settlement with Eli Lilly. McDaniel used some of the settlement funds to create a consumer protection website, which angered Lt. Gov. Mark Darr.

Darr wrote "I wish my office had millions at its disposal to run my campaign ads" earlier this year on Twitter.

Bailey Perrin also gave $75,000 in direct contributions to former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who hired the firm to pursue the lawsuits on behalf of the state. The firm added $16,000 in air travel.

The firm also gave $75,000 in 2007 to Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, who also hired the firm. Bailey gave Hood another $50,000 in 2011.

Other attorneys general who have received campaign funds from the firm include California's Kamala Harris and Kentucky's Jack Conway.

Former Wisconsin Attorney General Peggy Lautenschlager received $15,000 from two members of the firm in her unsuccessful 2006 campaign, and former California Attorney General Jerry Brown received $5,600 from William Junell in his 2006 campaign.

Bailey gave $10,000 to John Tyson in a failed run at Alabama attorney general in 2006.

Risperdal verdicts in other states have recently reached nine figures, but Arkansas' is the first to go to 10.

In Louisiana, the company was ordered in October 2010 to pay $258 million, while a South Carolina judge has ordered the company pay $327 million. Also, Johnson & Johnson reached a $158 million settlement with Texas this year.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed her own lawsuit in August.

The company had better luck in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw had a $4.5 million file wiped away by the state Supreme Court in 2010, and a Pennsylvania judge dismissed Rendell's case for lack of evidence.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at

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