Simmons Law Firm Critical to $136 Million Dollar Appeal Victory Over Johnson & Johnson Subsidiary
In a strongly worded opinion, the South Carolina Supreme Court on February 25, 2015, affirmed a jury’s finding that Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen unit violated South Carolina law with its “reprehensible” and “callous disregard for the health and welfare of the public” in marketing its anti-psychotic drug Risperdal. The decision also awarded damages against Janssen of more than $136 million, marking one of the largest damages awards in South Carolina history.
Simmons Law Firm – which was one of three firms representing the State of South Carolina in the proceedings – played a critical role in the trial victory and John S. Simmons, the firm’s founder, argued the appeal before the South Carolina Supreme Court. As the jury found and the appellate court agreed, Janssen violated South Carolina’s Unfair Trade Practices Act in several ways.
Janssen sent misleading letters to more than 7,100 doctors in the state downplaying Risperdal’s links to diabetes and improperly claiming the drug was safer than competing medicines;
Janssen deceptively marketing Risperdal in another 36,372 instances, including sales calls to physicians; and
Janssen deceptively labeled Risperdal.
The Supreme Court was blunt in holding that Janssen’s “deceit was substantial.” According to the Court, Janssen’s “furtive efforts to mislead prescribing physicians about the risks and side effects associated with Risperdal were reprehensible.” The Court went on to note that Janssen’s “desire for market share and increased sales knew no bounds, leading to its egregious violation of South Carolina law, . . . irrefutably linked to its longstanding efforts to conceal the truth regarding Risperdal.”