Inside business

After an $8bn verdict against Johnson & Johnson, here’s why America’s runaway juries might be a good thing

Such punitive damages are designed to punish corporate wrongdoing. Those with bad products need to be encouraged to think twice before marketing them to the public, writes James Moore

Wednesday 09 October 2019 17:56
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Legal troubles: Johnson & Johnson has a number of them
Legal troubles: Johnson & Johnson has a number of them

It’s the sort of verdict the size of which even John Grisham might think twice about including in one of his legal thrillers.

Johnson & Johnson was hit with an $8bn (£6.5bn) penalty by a real-life “runaway jury” over its marketing of an antipsychotic drug, Risperdal, which has the unfortunate potential side of effect of causing male users to develop breasts.

In Grisham’s bestselling book of that name – it focussed on tobacco litigation before Hollywood turned it into a movie about guns – his fictional good men and women baulked at an $800m award, ultimately settling for half that, opening the floodgates in the process.

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