La. jury reaches $258M verdict in Risperdal case

By John O'Brien | Oct 19, 2010


BATON ROUGE, La. (Legal Newsline) - A Louisiana jury has ordered Janssen Pharmaceutica to pay $258 million in a lawsuit brought by former state Attorney General Charles Foti and continued by his successor, Buddy Caldwell.

The lawsuit alleged Janssen misrepresented weight gain-related side effects associated with the prescription antipsychotic drug Risperdal. A jury in Opelousas imposed a penalty of $7,250 for 35,542 alleged violations of state law, and Janssen has already stated it will appeal.

Caldwell's office was represented by private attorneys. So far, it is unknown how much those attorneys will stand to make if the verdict is affirmed.

Louisiana is one of two states that doesn't allow its attorney general to hire private attorneys on a contingency fee. A bill that would have changed that did not make it through the state Legislature this year.

"This verdict sends a loud message to those who knowingly try to defraud the system," Caldwell said. "Those who deceive the state must pay."

Two firms that represented Louisiana in a similar lawsuit against Eli Lilly & Co. pursued the Janssen case. Houston firm Bailey Perrin Bailey did too.

The lawyers hired by Foti for both lawsuits are Morrow, Morrow, Ryan & Bassett of Opelousas, which donated $7,500 to Foti from 2003-07 and then donated $5,000 to Caldwell, and Kenneth DeJean of Lafayette, who donated $5,500 to Foti before giving $1,000 to Caldwell.

Those two firms and Robert Salim received $4 million in the Eli Lilly settlement.

Bailey Perrin has pursued similar lawsuits in other states. Among those who hired the firm are Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who received $75,000 in contributions and $16,000 in air travel from the firm, and Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, who received $75,000 in contributions.

Janssen appealed a $4.5 million ruling against it in a Risperdal case in West Virginia.

At trial, the parties stipulated to the number or instances that could qualify as violations. The court assessed $5,000 per violation where a message was delivered personally to a West Virginia doctor by a company sales representative and $500 where the information was conveyed by letter or sales brochure.

A total of 4,450 violations were found to have taken place, which would have resulted in a civil penalty of up to $22,250,000 if the court had imposed the maximum of $5,000 per violation.

The West Virginia Supreme Court heard oral arguments in September.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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