J&J Slumps on $4.7 Billion Award to Cancer Patients

Women Claimed Johnson & Johnson's Talc Powder Gave Them Cancer. They Just Won $4.7 Billion in Damages

Women Claimed Johnson & Johnson's Talc Powder Gave Them Cancer. They Just Won $4.7 Billion in Damages

The award was earmarked for 22 women and their families who claimed Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products also contained asbestos.

A jury in a Missouri circuit court awarded $4.14 billion in punitive damages and $550 million in compensatory damages to the women, who had accused the company of failing to warn them about cancer risks associated with its baby and body powders.

The company now faces about 9,000 talc-cancer cases in state and federal court, according to published reports, with the bulk of state court cases in Missouri, New Jersey, and California, according to J&J's May 2018 quarterly report. The company has had previous success in overturning large verdicts in talc cases as well as others alleging harm from its products.

Johnson & Johnson called the ruling "fundamentally unfair" and has said it plans to appeal. "The multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed".

The plaintiffs' lawyers said asbestos fibers and talc particles were found in the ovarian tissues of numerous women.

According to the Los Angeles Times, it was alleged during the trial that Johnson & Johnson has covered up asbestos in their products for over 40 years.

The jury's decision that J&J's baby powder caused ovarian cancer could be more significant in the long-run then the large payout, as its stock dropped 1.4% after Thursday's verdict against its renowned product.

"J&J has strong arguments, but unless they get to certify this case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which are very long odds, this decision is likely to stand", said Lars Noah, a law professor at the University of Florida.

A jury ruled in Johnson & Johnson's favor in one lawsuit in California last November. The company has faced legal challenges on the same issue before, which it is still appealing or contesting.

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. J&J sought to protect the image of Baby Powder as "their sacred cow", he said. "Johnson & Johnson remains confident that its products do not contain asbestos and do not cause ovarian cancer", J&J said in a statement. However, the prosecution in this case argued that J&J and the FDA's tests were flawed.

A separate but related set of lawsuits suggest Johnson & Johnson's powder is contaminated with asbestos.

Six of the women in the case have passed away and were represented at the trial by spouses and family members.

In other appeals, J&J convinced judges to toss verdicts worth $72 million and $55 million; appeals on the other cases are pending.

United Kingdom-based cancer charity Ovacome has said that there have been concerns for some years that using talcum powder on the genital area may increase the risk of ovarian cancer, but says this has not been proven by research.

Punitive damages are additional punishments levied against a defendant to prevent similar actions in the future.

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