$550 million awarded in lawsuit linking cancer, baby powder
Jul 14, 2018, 03:56
A jury in St. Louis has awarded almost $4.7 billion in damages to a group of women who said Johnson & Johnson talc products caused them to develop ovarian cancer. The company is facing more than 9,000 plaintiffs in cases involving body powders with talc, according to a regulatory document filed this spring.
Medical experts testified during the six-week trial that asbestos (a known carcinogen) is intermingled with mineral talc, which is the primary ingredient in Johnson & Johnson's Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products. Lanier said J&J responded to these results by deleting findings, and "manipulating" federal agencies such as the FDA.
J&J denied the argument saying that it didn't make sense for the company to do extensive testing and still allow the product to be harmful. 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. The company said the "multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed".
J&J dropped 1.4 per cent in late trading after closing at US$127.76 in NY.
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 U.S. government agencies that he said found the company's products didn't contain asbestos and were safe. "Johnson & Johnson remains confident that its products do not contain asbestos and do not cause ovarian cancer", J&J said in a statement. Another mesothelioma case in late May ended in a mistrial. Five plaintiffs were from Missouri, with others from Arizona, New York, North Dakota, California, Georgia, the Carolinas and Texas.
"American studies of personal use of talcum powder have had mixed results, although there is some suggestion of a possible increase in ovarian cancer risk", the organization says. Six of the 22 women died. "It's for women to find out what was in talc".
The punitive part of the St. Louis verdict may be particularly vulnerable to post-trial challenges or appeals.
The punitive damages are among the largest ever awarded in a product liability case, he said.
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. Plus, many appeals courts cut back punitive damages awards on appeal.
The verdict marked the sixth-largest award related to product defects in US history, Bloomberg reported. "J&J has a good shot at knocking it down".
A Missouri jury found in favour of the women in the Circuit Court of the City of St Louis on Thursday.
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