J &J verdict puts St. Landry Parish on judicial 'Hellhole' watch list

By Alejandro de los Rios | Dec 14, 2010


The American Tort Reform Association's list of judicial "Hellholes" placed St. Landry Parish on its "watch list."

A lawsuit of Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell against drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson is listed as a reason why St. Landry Parish received the dubious distinction. The annual list cites a $258 million judgment against Janssen Pharmaceutica, one of the Johnson & Johnson companies.

Caldwell hired plaintiff lawyers on a contingency-fee basis to bring the suit over alleged overstatement of health benefits of antipsychotic drug Risperdal. The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had found the company understated side effects like weight gain and overstated the drug's effectiveness.

The St. Landry jury fined Johnson & Johnson for every letter and phone call it sent to doctors. The FDA had only required a corrective letter sent to the doctors. The same allegations resulted in only a $4.5 million verdict in West Virginia, and it was overturned on appeal.

Melissa Landry, the Executive Director of the Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch said that that the St. Landry's appearance on the list is part of a larger problem.

"Unfortunately, Louisiana has a growing litigation industry that's being driven by some plaintiffs' attorney's who are hoping to win the 'lawsuit lottery," she said. "If this continues because of a lack of legal reform, we can expect to see many more areas of the state labeled as judicial hellholes."

ATRA's report says the Risperdal verdict is the largest settlement in St. Landry's history and one of the largest in the history of Louisiana.

The Hellhole list is released every year by ATRA. This year, Philadelphia garnered the most criticism, followed by Los Angeles and Humboldt Counties in California and West Virginia. The list also mentioned the Gulf Coast of Texas as an "area to watch."

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