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Record breaking $327 million verdict upheld in Spartanburg

STAFF REPORTS
Published on Thursday, December 22, 2011

The jury verdict in the case of State of South Carolina versus Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Johnson & Johnson, Inc. has been upheld and requests for a new trial denied, affirming groundbreaking $327 million in civil penalties against the manufacturers of the drug Risperdal. 

Circuit Court Judge Roger Couch announced the rulings Tuesday in Spartanburg through two written orders. One order denies the defendant's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, for a new trial; the second order denies the defendant's motion to alter or amend the judgment and/or for a new trial. 

John B. White, Jr. and Donald C. Coggins, Jr. of Harrison, White, Smith and Coggins, P.C., a Spartanburg-based law firm, along with John Simmons of the Simmons Law Firm, a Columbia-based law firm, and Bailey Perrin Bailey, a Texas-based law firm represented South Carolina in the case.

"We are obviously very pleased with Judge Couch's decision and his careful consideration of this matter," stated John B. White, Jr. "The verdict handed down by the jury is just and speaks the truth. The damages awarded further substantiated the level of deception Janssen used in business practices in our state. Once again, we have sent a clear message to drug companies that deceptive business practices will not be tolerated in South Carolina."

On March 22 a jury in the Spartanburg Court of Common Pleas found that New Jersey-based Janssen willfully violated the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act by engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce in the "dear doctor" letter of Nov. 10, 2003 and the drug label (package insert).

This decision represents the first jury verdict that finds the defendant violated unfair trade practices since the inception of its pharmaceutical product.

The "dear doctor" letter, sent to more than 7,000 doctors across South Carolina, and the package insert were found to be misleading about the safety and effectiveness of the antipsychotic drug Risperdal. Risperdal was introduced by Janssen in 1994 and by 2005, generated annual revenues in excess of $3.5 billion.

On June 3 civil penalties amounting to $327,073,700 were ordered by Circuit Court Judge Couch based upon violations found with the drug labels and "dear doctor" letters. The combination of the drug label and letter damages amount to the highest verdict brought against Janssen for the drug Risperdal.

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