Women Awarded Almost $5 Billion In Damages from J&J

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

The jury awarded $550 million in compensatory damages to 22 women and their families who alleged that decades of daily use of Johnson & Johnson's asbestos-laden talcum powder products caused their ovarian cancer.

J&J shares fell $1.31, or 1 per cent, to $126.45 in after-hours trading following the punitive damages award.

Johnson & Johnson said in a statement that it is "deeply disappointed in the verdict".

The US Food and Drug Administration had commissioned a study of a variety of talc samples, including J&J, from 2009 to 2010.

The company has been sued by more than 9,000 women who claim its talcum powder contributed to their ovarian cancer. Concerns about a link between talc and ovarian cancer started surfacing around 1971, when scientists wrote about finding talc particles embedded in ovarian and cervical tumor tissue. She is receiving chemotherapy in Roanoke, Virginia, but described it as palliative.

Johnson & Johnson has faced multiple trials in St. Louis over ovarian-cancer claims, losing four of the first five to go to trial.

'The result of the verdict, which awarded the exact same amounts to all plaintiffs irrespective of their individual facts, and differences in applicable law, reflects that the evidence in the case was simply overwhelmed by the prejudice of this type of proceeding'.

The jury has yet to decide on punitive damages.

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But Lanier argued J&J traded on the reputation of its baby powder as a source of comfort, all while rigging tests over decades to hide cancer-causing asbestos the company knew was in its talc.

The women and their families said decades-long use of baby powder and other cosmetic talc products caused their diseases. Imerys SA, the company that supplied the powder was also sued and settled the claim for $5 million. Others are from Texas, California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Georgia.

In 2006, the International Agency for Research in Cancer, which falls under the World Health Organization, made a decision to classify the use of talc in the genital area as "possibly carcinogenic to humans".

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. A SC jury couldn't reach a verdict on similar claims in the same week as the California verdict. Still, this is a huge win for both the women defendants and others who claim adverse effects from the company's product.

The high court said in 2002 that such sanctions may be considered excessive if they exceed a single-digit ratio to the actual-damage award. The amount marks the largest jury award in the USA in 2018, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, and the sixth-largest jury verdict in a product-defect claim in United States history.

The punitive damages are among the largest ever awarded in a product liability case, he said. "J&J has a good shot at knocking it down".

According to the complaint filed past year in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, the women routinely used Johnson's Baby Powder and Shower to Shower, an absorbent body powder, to "dust their perineum for feminine hygiene purposes".

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