Published: Sat, July 14, 2018
Medicine | By Debra Reynolds

$4.69 Billion Verdict Pounds Johnson & Johnson in 22-Plaintiff, Talc-Cancer Trial

$4.69 Billion Verdict Pounds Johnson & Johnson in 22-Plaintiff, Talc-Cancer Trial

A U.S. court's jury in St Louis, Missouri, ordered Johnson & Johnson, on Thursday, to pay damages of up to United States dollars 4.69 billion to 22 women who claimed that asbestos present in the company's talcum powder was the reason for them developing ovarian cancer.

Jurors on Thursday awarded the women $4.14 billion in punitive damages and $550 million in compensatory damages after a six-week trial in St. Louis Circuit Court.

The company faces around 9,000 of these cases.

The verdict capped a six-week-long trial focusing largely on whether J&J's talc contained asbestos and the company's conduct surrounding testing for the presence of the cancer-causing mineral.

Johnson & Johnson said in a statement it "is deeply disappointed" and "remains confident that its products do not contain asbestos and do not cause ovarian cancer".

Pharmaceutical companies use talc to produce talcum powder, among other products.

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Lawyers said asbestos fibres and talc particles were found in the ovarian tissues of numerous women.

Mark Lanier, the lawyer for the women, in a statement following the verdict called on J&J to pull its talc products from the market "before causing further anguish, harm, and death from a awful disease".

The victims' lawyer, Mark Lanier, said they had used the talc for personal hygiene. However, this and a $72 million award in a separate case were both overturned on the basis of insufficient evidence and alleged jury misconduct in setting high damages.

J&J's statement reiterated its contention that its talc is asbestos-free and promised to challenge the decision.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said punitive damage awards are limited by state law to five times the amount of compensatory damages awarded and defense lawyers probably would file a motion to reduce the award. The firm is embroiled in several cases against its trademark baby powder.

That each plaintiff and her family members were awarded $25 million for their losses "irrespective of their individual facts, and differences in applicable law, reflects that the evidence in the case was simply overwhelmed by the prejudice of this type of proceeding, " Goodrich added.

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Johnson & Johnson "hired the best labs in the country year after year after year" to test for asbestos, he said. However asbestos, which can contaminate talc if not carefully extracted or purified, is a carcinogen. It also was the first trial in which a jury ruled on talc- and asbestos-induced ovarian cancer.

The company said its talc does not contain asbestos or cause ovarian cancer, and vowed it would "pursue all available appellate remedies".

J&J denied any contamination with asbestos or any rigged testing. The company has won other ovarian cancer cases in New Jersey and St. Louis.

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-damage awards are created to deter corporations and other defendants from engaging in conduct that is considered outrageous, wanton or excessively reckless.

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