Jury Bashes Johnson & Johnson With $4.7 BILLION Verdict in Talcum Powder Lawsuit

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

After 8 hours of deliberations Thursday, a St. Louis jury awarded $4.69 billion to 22 women who sued pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson alleging their ovarian cancer was caused by using its powder as a part of their daily feminine hygiene routine.

Company shares have dropped significantly since the verdict was announced, there's no question that the entire J&J brand will suffer greatly as a result.

According to a report in The New York Times, Johnson & Johnson said that it is planning to appeal the verdict as it was "disappointed" with the jury's decision.

The women claimed that the company failed to warn them about the traces of the chemical and associated cancer risks in using Johnson's Baby Powder.

Lawyers said asbestos fibres and talc particles were found in the ovarian tissues of numerous women.

Mark Lanier, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said in a statement that Johnson & Johnson had covered up evidence of asbestos in its products for more than 40 years. J&J should pull its talc-based products from the market or "mark it with a serious warning", he said.

The jury awarded the $550 million (around Rs 3,800 crore) to the petitioners, who had claimed that the asbestos found in the product was carcinogenic. The other two are on appeal, facing the same challenges from Johnson & Johnson. The jury later added $4.1 billion (around Rs 28,100 crore) in punitive damages.

The plaintiff's lawyer stated that J&J should pull their baby powder from the shelves "before causing further anguish, harm, and death from a bad disease".

The plaintiffs argued that Johnson & Johnson's talcum powder products, like baby powder, caused them to develop ovarian cancer.

Johnson & Johnson has faced multiple trials in St. Louis over ovarian-cancer claims, losing four of the first five to go to trial. Still, they continue to deny any traces of asbestos in their products.

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.

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

A separate but related set of lawsuits suggest Johnson & Johnson's powder is contaminated with asbestos. The company said plaintiffs' tests showing asbestos contamination were "junk science".

As The Washington Post's Laurie McGinley reported, there is a debate about whether talcum powder can cause ovarian cancer, with many experts, including government researchers, contending the evidence is thin.

The women who sued, whose jobs range from school bus driver to executive director of a job-retraining program, come from states including Pennsylvania, California, Arizona and NY.

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

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