$550 million awarded in lawsuit linking cancer, baby powder

A jury awarded almost $US4.7 billion in total damages to 22 women and their families who claimed asbestos in Johnson & Johnson talcum powder contributed to their ovarian cancer in the first case against the company that focused on asbestos in the powder.

The jury award includes $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages.

J&J is battling another 9,000 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.

Beisner said jurisdiction will be one major basis for J&J to appeal Thursday's verdict. The company said the "multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed".

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 United States government agencies that he said found the company's products didn't contain asbestos and were safe.

After a six-week trial, the jury in St Louis deliberated over the compensatory damages for eight hours but decided on the punitive damages in roughly 45 minutes, said Mark Lanier, a lawyer for the women.

Johnson's baby powder remains stocked at a supermarket shelf on August 22, 2017 in Alhambra, California, where a Los Angeles jury on August 21 ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a record $417 million to a woman in hospital who sued the company.

The verdict follows several others against J&J; judges have nixed three in appeals.

The punitive damages are among the largest ever awarded in a product liability case, he said. It says that there have been worries for some years that using talcum powder on the genital area may increase the risk of ovarian cancer, but says this has not been proved by research and more studies are needed.

A jury has issued Johnson & Johnson to pay $4.69 billion in a talcum powder lawsuit Thursday.

"The evidence in the case was simply overwhelmed by the prejudice of this type of proceeding", the company said in a statement. The company said it remained confident that its products do not contain asbestos or cause cancer.

But Lanier during the trial told jurors that the agency and other laboratories and J&J have used flawed testing methods that did not allow for the proper detection of asbestos fibers.

A separate but related set of lawsuits suggest Johnson & Johnson's powder is contaminated with asbestos. Two of those plaintiffs' verdicts, one for $72 million and the other for $55 million, have been erased on appeal on jurisdictional grounds.

Johnson & Johnson said in the past no warning label is necessary because there is no concern about their product.

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

Vanessa Coleman

Comments