J&J Hit With $4.69B Verdict In 22-Woman Talc Cancer Trial

Bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder line a drugstore shelf in New York

Bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder line a drugstore shelf in New York

Almost two dozen women who claimed asbestos in Johnson & Johnson talcum powder caused their ovarian cancer were awarded $550 million in damages by a St Louis jury in the first case against the company that focused on asbestos in the powder.

The case is Ingham v. Johnson & Johnson, 1522-CC10417, Circuit Court, City of St. Louis, Missouri.

To view the full article, register now. Five plaintiffs were from Missouri, with others from states that include Arizona, New York, North Dakota, California, Georgia, the Carolinas and Texas.

However, all talcum products in the U.S. have reportedly been asbestos-free ever since the 1970s but studies are still ongoing to determine whether asbestos-free talc has similar risk of causing cancer.

In some cases, large settlements have been overturned, as was the case in October when a Los Angeles judge overturned a $417 million settlement against the company on grounds that "serious misconduct" was allegedly committed by a jury. During opening statements, he pointed out that none of the doctors who treated the women ever considered baby powder as a cause and that numerous studies and regulatory agencies had found no link.

His studies and the many others that found a relationship used a case-control approach: A group of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer and a group without it were asked to recall their past diet and activities, and the results were then compared.

The company plans to appeal over the verdict.

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After a brief punitive phase Thursday afternoon, jurors deliberated for about 30 minutes before handing down their $4.14 billion punitive award.

To place the size of Thursday's verdict in perspective, the award would equal about 6.1% of the multi-national company's roughly $76.5 billion in 2017 reported revenue.

She said the case was overwhelmed with "prejudice" because each plaintiff was awarded the same $25 million "irrespective of their individual facts", according to Bloomberg. In a press release, he said he hoped the verdict would bring attention to the alleged dangers of asbestos-containing talcum powder. One plaintiff is undergoing chemotherapy and was too ill to attend, Mr Lanier said.

A female juror, who did not want her name used, told the Post-Dispatch that jurors arrived at the punitive damages amount by multiplying the figure Johnson & Johnson earns each year for selling baby powder by the 43 years that the company has denied the product contained asbestos.

While the more than US$4 billion punitive-damage verdict will grab the headlines, the jury's decision that asbestos in J&J's Baby Powder caused the women's ovarian cancer may be a bigger, long-term concern, said Jean Eggen, a Widener University law professor who teaches about mass-tort cases. However, the prosecution in this case argued that J&J and the FDA's tests were flawed.

But several legal experts said Missouri courts, including at the appellate and supreme court level, were historically plaintiff-friendly and could prove unreceptive to J&J's arguments. "The multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed".

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