Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $4.7b for cancer causing baby powder

Lynette PayneJul 14, 2018

Johnson & Johnson must pay US$4.14 billion in punitive damages to women who claimed asbestos in the company's talc products caused them to develop ovarian cancer.

After announcing that award, the jury deliberated further and added $4.14 billion in punitive damages against the company.

The company faces around 9,000 of these cases. Testing confirmed that the mineral talc in their Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products contained asbestos, and the same particles were discovered in numerous womens' ovarian tissues.

The company said it is disappointed with the latest verdict plans to file an appeal.

Plaintiffs' lawyer Mark Lanier told the jurors during closing arguments Wednesday that Johnson & Johnson knew its products contained asbestos and didn't warn consumers.

"For over 40 years, Johnson & Johnson has covered up the evidence of asbestos in their products", Lanier said in the release.

"Some scientists have suggested that talc particles could travel to the ovaries, irritate them and cause inflammation", says Cancer Research UK. But that 2017 verdict by a California jury, as well as other verdicts in Missouri, was overturned on appeal, and challenges to at least another five verdicts are pending.

Under the Supreme Court guidelines the $4 billion punitive award in St. Louis would likely be considered "excessive", said Anthony Sabino, law professor at St. John's University in NY. "With all of this independent testing, there's some massive conspiracy going on at Johnson & Johnson to expose babies to asbestos?"

"The evidence in the case was simply overwhelmed by the prejudice of this type of proceeding", the company said in a statement. Most of the 22 plaintiffs were not Missouri residents, and he said they should not have been allowed to sue New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson in St. Louis under a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that severely restricted state courts' jurisdiction over injury lawsuits brought by non-residents against out-of-state companies.

"Johnson & Johnson remains confident that its products do not contain asbestos and do not cause ovarian cancer and intends to pursue all available appellate remedies", spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said.

Johnson & Johnson denied any contamination with asbestos or any rigged testing. But since then, all home products containing talcum powder are legally obliged to be asbestos-free.

"Yes, this is bad", Bicks said of the women's cancer. A Missouri appeals court tossed out a $55 million verdict in June citing jurisdictional issues.

The women in the St Louis trial, whose jobs range from school bus driver to executive director of a job retraining programme, come from states across the country, including Pennsylvania, California, Arizona and NY.

Rebecca Rennison, director of public affairs and services, said: "Various studies have shown a link between using talcum powder between the legs and ovarian cancer".

Punitive damages are additional punishments levied against a defendant to prevent similar actions in the future.

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