Johnson & Johnson to pay $4.7bn damages in talc cancer case

Grant Boone
July 13, 2018

A U.S. court's jury in St Louis, Missouri, ordered Johnson & Johnson, on Thursday, to pay damages of up to 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.

The prosecution argued that Johnson & Johnson were aware that its talc is contaminated with asbestos since 1970s but did not warn their customers about the risks involved.

The women and their families said decades-long use of Baby Powder and other cosmetic talc products caused their diseases.

During closing arguments, Johnson & Johnson lawyer Peter Bicks said the company for years has exceeded industry standards in testing talcum powder for asbestos and cited several scientific studies and conclusions by USA government agencies that he said found the company's products didn't contain asbestos and were safe.

Jurors announced the award for compensatory damages Thursday in a lawsuit that included 22 plaintiffs. Because of this, the women say, they developed ovarian cancer.

The $4.69 billion award is the largest jury award in the United States this year, Bloomberg reported.

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"If J&J insists on continuing to sell talc, they should mark it with a serious warning", Lanier said.

'Every verdict against Johnson & Johnson in this court that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed and the multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed, ' she said.

Bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder line a drugstore shelf in New York October 15, 2015. A Missouri appeals court tossed out a $55 million verdict in June citing jurisdictional issues. A separate plaintiffs' award, for $417 million by a Los Angeles jury in August, was reversed by the trial judge who decided evidence didn't support the verdict. However, Mark Lanier, a lawyer for the women suing, said both the agency and the company used flawed testing methods, preventing them from detecting the possible presence of asbestos fibers. Berg claimed that she turned down a settlement of Dollars 1.3 million from the company and instead wanted it to put warning stickers on their products. The asbestos cases are part of more than 9,000 claims alleging that J&J's talc products cause cancer.

The women who sued, whose jobs range from school bus driver to executive director of a job-retraining program, come from states including Pennsylvania, California, Arizona and NY. Mineral traces in the talc aren't proof of asbestos contamination, Mr. Bicks said.

But several other settlements have been affirmed with more cases pending.

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