$550 million awarded in lawsuit linking cancer, baby powder

Leslie Hanson
July 13, 2018

JOHNSON & Johnson has been ordered to pay a record $US4.69 billion ($A6.34 billion) to 22 women in the United States who alleged the company's talc-based products contained asbestos and caused them to develop 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.

Mark Lanier, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said in a statement that Johnson & Johnson had covered up evidence of asbestos in their products for more than 40 years, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

After the punitive damages were announced, plaintiffs, their family members and their lawyers gathered around the jurors, hugging them and thanking them.

The defense contended that claims linking asbestos to J&J's talc-based products was a lawyer-driven argument that lacked strong scientific support and that the women developed ovarian cancer for other reasons.

Punitive-damage awards are created to deter corporations and other defendants from engaging in conduct that is considered outrageous, wanton or excessively reckless. On Thursday, Lanier highlighted results he said showed asbestos both in talc mines and the baby powder itself.

J&J says it will appeal the latest verdict, which it argues is "the product of a fundamentally unfair process". The firm is embroiled in several cases against its trademark baby powder.


"Yes, this is bad", Bicks said of the women's cancer.

A separate but related set of lawsuits suggest Johnson & Johnson's powder is contaminated with asbestos.

The company now faces about 9,000 talc-cancer cases in state and federal court, according to published reports, with the bulk of state court cases in Missouri, New Jersey, and California, according to J&J's May 2018 quarterly report.

Pharmaceutical companies use talc to produce talcum powder, among other products. The women claim that either the talc caused ovarian cancer or that the product's talc led to mesothelioma. The risky strategy allows earlier plaintiffs to send signals about legal tactics and their award amounts to women who bring cases later.

Johnson & Johnson has faced multiple trials in St Louis over ovarian cancer claims, losing four of the first five to go to trial. Mineral traces in the talc aren't proof of asbestos contamination, Mr. Bicks said.

J&J has successfully overturned talc verdicts in the past, with appeals courts pointing to a 2017 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that limits where personal injury lawsuits can be filed.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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