Johnson & Johnson to pay $4.7-bn damages to 22 women

The verdict is the largest J&J has faced to date over allegations that its talc-based products cause cancer.

New York: A Missouri jury ordered Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to pay a record $4.69 billion to 22 women who alleged that the company’s talc-based products, including its baby powder, contain asbestos and caused them to develop ovarian cancer.

The verdict is the largest J&J has faced to date over allegations that its talc-based products cause cancer. The company is battling some 9,000 talc cases. It has denied both that its talc products cause cancer and that they ever contained asbestos. It says decades of studies show its talc to be safe and has successfully overturned previous talc verdicts on technical legal grounds.

Thursday’s massive verdict, handed down in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, comprises $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages, according to an online broadcast of the trial by Courtroom View Network.

The jury’s decision followed more than five weeks of testimony by nearly a dozen experts on both sides. The women and their families said decades-long use of Baby Powder and other cosmetic talc products caused their diseases. They allege the company knew its talc was contaminated with asbestos since at least the 1970s but failed to warn consumers about the risks.

Disappointed with verdict

  • ‘Johnson & Johnson is deeply disappointed by the verdict, which was the product of a fundamentally unfair process,’ the company said in a statement. It remained confident that its products do not contain asbestos or cause cancer.
    ‘If J&J insists on continuing to sell talc, they should mark it with a serious warning,’ jury said.
  • Cases that went to trial in St. Louis effectively combine those claims by alleging asbestos-contaminated talc caused ovarian cancer.
  • The majority of the lawsuits that J&J faces involve claims that talc itself caused ovarian cancer but, a smaller number of cases allege that contaminated talc caused mesothelioma, a tissue cancer closely linked to asbestos exposure.
  • J&J has successfully overturned verdicts in past, with appeals courts pointing to a 2017 decision by US SC that limits where personal lawsuits can be filed.
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